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Kayla Stielow embraces new role at Charles Lindbergh House and Museum

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    In many ways, returning to Little Falls is like coming home to Kayla Stielow, the new site manager at Charles Lindbergh House and Museum. After all, it was there it all kind of began, she said.

    Stielow started working as an interpreter at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum four years ago. It was initially meant to only be a summer job, but after falling in love with the staff, the people who visited and the community of Little Falls, her future plans were altered.

    Close to finishing grad school at the time, Stielow joined the interpretive programs at the Minnesota history Center in St. Paul.

    “When I was an interpreter here in Little Falls, I was introduced to that team. That team supports programming across all of the sites in the Minnesota Historical Society. I was interested in doing programming and in supporting front line staff,” she said.

    While Stielow was sad to leave her program manager of interpretive programs in St. Paul, a position former site manager, Melissa Peterson, took over, she is thrilled for the opportunity to return to Little Falls.

    “It’s great to be back. In a lot of ways, it feels like coming home. This is where it all started and the staff has made me feel so at home,” she said.

    One thing Stielow wants visitors, whether they are local residents or traveling from out of town, is to feel welcome.

    “I am here to serve them,” she said.

    As the Charles House and Museum has been closed for the majority of last year due to the pandemic, Stielow is looking forward to opening the doors for tours this summer, beginning July 2.

    The museum, which offers a glimpse of the life of Charles Lindbergh, features model planes, flight footage, exhibits and more. Visitors also have the opportunity to climb inside a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, which Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic flight in, in 1927.

    In addition, two presentations will be held. While one focuses more on the transatlantic flight, the other presentation discusses Lindbergh’s involvement in the America First Committee, an isolationist pressure group against American entry into World War II. He was also believed by many, including President Franklin Roosevelt, to have been a Nazi sympathizer.

    “Our job isn’t to hide any of that to protect him, but to give people an accurate and full information as possible,” Stielow said.

    Visitors will also be able to take guided or self-guided tours of the Lindbergh House, which is furnished with original Lindbergh family objects, including the piano that survived a fire. Children’s tours will be offered of the House, as well.

    What connected Lindbergh to Little Falls was the house itself, a summer house his father, Charles Lindbergh, built on the west bank of the Mississippi River in 1906. While visiting the House and Museum, visitors have the opportunity to hear stories about Lindbergh’s experience seeing his very first airplane flying up the Mississippi River, seeing the family’s restored 1916 Saxon automobile Lindbergh drove to California as a teenager and more.

    Looking back, Stielow said her love for history has lingered with her for a long time.

    “History was one of my favorite classes. My passion for history came from having really great teachers growing up,” she said.

    Two teachers, Mr. Pete Warne and Mr. Dave Sorensen at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, also inspired her to go into the teaching field. After she graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education with an emphasis on history, she started teaching social studies at Kotzebue High School in Kotzebue, Alaska.

    “Alaska was hiring a lot of teachers at the time and it seemed to be a good fit for me,” she said.

    She returned to Minnesota after a couple of years and eventually started working at the Minnesota History Center. While working at Charles Lindbergh House and Museum, Stielow is also writing her master’s thesis and is almost done with graduate school. It is a great feeling, she said.

    When Stielow isn’t working or studying, she enjoys spending time with her husband, John, and their daughter, Evelyn. She also likes visiting different historic sites, state parks, go camping and engage in various other outdoor activities.

    For more information about the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum, visit www.mnhs.org/lindbergh.

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