One of the original branches of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902 and opened to patients in 1907. Although the National Historic Landmark provides essential medical services for veterans in the area, the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to shutter it and construct a new facility 60 miles away. Not only would this place the future of this remarkable campus at risk, it would severely impact the town of Hot Springs, where the medical center is the single largest employer.
The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, established in 1865, was the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Battle Mountain Sanitarium, its only branch designed solely as a medical facility, is one of more than 1,700 historic properties managed by the VA and one of only a few that retain enough integrity for National Historic Landmark designation. The VA is proving to be a poor steward of the prized sandstone buildings at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium and has already proven to be a poor steward at other VA historic sites across the country, deferring maintenance and disregarding the regulations that require compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.
- Prevent the closure of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center at Battle Mountain Sanitarium.
- Secure federal dollars for the rehabilitation of Battle Mountain Sanitarium, and make certain the sanitarium continues to serve as a VA facility.
Ways To Help
Written by Jessica Pumphrey, Team Member
After two years of appeals from veterans, members of Congress, and other stakeholders like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced its plan to move forward with assessing the proposed closure of Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In response to this announcement, David Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer for the National Trust, penned a thoughtful opinion piece in the Rapid City Journal expressing our deep concern about the VA’s decision. He stated that now is a critical time for veterans, community members and others to elevate their voices for the preservation and continued use of Battle Mountain Sanitarium. He also touched on the ‘watchful eye’ of South Dakota’s congressional leaders who requested that the VA adhere to all Federal review and compliance requirements, urging them to reach an objective decision based on public input regarding the fate of the historic structures.
It’s clear that our work is far from over here but we are committed to holding the VA accountable for preservation decisions made about the future use of these priceless historic buildings and the effects of those decisions to veterans’ healthcare.
Written by Adam Jones, Team Member
Battle Mountain Sanitarium will start the New Year on a positive note as Congress blocks immediate efforts to relocate its veterans’ medical services. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act (H.R. 3521). The bill authorizes 27 of the 28 major medical facility lease projects requested by the VA for Fiscal Year 2014. The only requested project not included in the bill is a new VA facility in Rapid City, SD, a project that would transfer VA medical facilities out of the iconic Battle Mountain Sanitarium medical campus located in Hot Springs, SD. Identical legislation now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.
This is a significant step in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's campaign to save this national treasure.
Two years ago today the VA announced its proposal to shutter the Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus and move medical services to a new facility 60 miles north, in Rapid City. Since then, the National Trust has worked closely with South Dakota’s Congressional delegation—Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune, and Representative Kristi Noem—as well as congressional members from the neighboring states of Wyoming and Nebraska, the South Dakota state legislature, and local stakeholder and veterans groups to preserve the Hot Springs medical facility.
During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier this year, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki assured Senator Johnson that a final decision on the fate of Battle Mountain Sanitarium had not been made, and he agreed with Senator Johnson that it was a mistake to include the Rapid City proposal in the list of authorization requests. Representative Noem, Nebraska Representative Adrian Smith and Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis then used Secretary Shinseki’s testimony to secure removal of the request from H.R. 3521.
The National Trust continues to be deeply concerned that the VA's planned abandonment of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus endangers this National Historic Landmark, would severely impact the economic vitality of the small town of Hot Springs, and could potentially lessen the quality of health care received by veterans in the region. Our work with partners to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the economic fate of Hot Springs, long known as “The Veterans Town,” is ongoing.
Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager
Written by Amy Cole, Team Member
Today the National Trust released a new report entitled Honoring Our Veterans: Saving Their Places of Health Care and Healing. The report explores the Department of Veterans Affairs cultural resource stewardship practices, identifies deficiencies and best practices and highlights the work the National Trust has been doing at Battle Mountain Sanitarium to save this National Treasure. We hope this report will help to change policies at the VA that are preventing historic VA properties from being saved or reused.
The report identifies four main recommendations to help save places in the VA’s portfolio of more than 2,000 historic buildings:
- Top management of the VA must strongly and unequivocally commit to and support the protection of historic VA facilities—in order to comply with federal historic preservation laws and to ensure the best care possible for our nation’s veterans.
- VA staff should be encouraged to support—and resources must be allocated for—the preservation of the historic buildings with which they have been entrusted. The planning process for VA facilities needs to be revised to include assessment of historic resources before years of planning for new buildings, and sometimes even congressional authorization, make it difficult to change decisions that have become set in stone.
- Opportunities to reuse and protect the VA’s historic buildings through private developers and other non-governmental parties should be expanded and actively promoted.
- Preservationists and other advocates must help the VA recognize the value of historic buildings to the mission and work of the agency and the communities in which they exist.
Ultimately, the Trust will utilize the report as a tool to collaborate with the VA and help them make better decisions about using and caring for their amazing collection of architecture and landscapes. Congress can help us with this charge, and so can local preservationists. The preservation and continued use of the VA’s medical facilities would honor not just living veterans, but all veterans, for whom the historically significant buildings and landscapes were designed and built.
Ted Spencer on May 13, 2013
I had my Military Retirement Physical in 2010 at Hot Springs VA Battle Mountain. I then had two subsequent follow-up appointments. The staff was always very helpful, friendly, and courteous. I remember how beautiful and peaceful this facility was--and still is! I've served two tours of duty in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan, and the setting in Hot Springs is very conducive for healing, sprituality , and recovery. It would be a disgrace and disservice to abandon such a great facility, as it can easily continue to be a place of peace, solitude, and healing for generations of our nation's veterans.
john E Renstrom on November 09, 2012
when I joined the service in 1967 on of the recruitment persuasions was the comment that this facility would be here for you after you get out. it has been and inspite of upper management the people committed to caring for returning veterans have done so. every veteran since the civil war has found hope and healing here. now to close it down and rent a CBOC down town some were farming out diagnostic services some were else is a slap in the face from this administration to ever veteran that has served and a put down to the people that have served us.
Karen Meston on August 15, 2012
The first time I entered the main complex my reaction was, WOW! The pictures don't do it justice. It is very impressive and beautiful. I, too, think of the many people who have been cared for in these buildings and the many who have cared for them. It is a spiritual place, the sort of setting that is conducive to healing. If we all work together, it will continue to be a place of healing for our veterans for many years into the future.
Pat Lyke, Hot Springs, SD on June 09, 2012
When I first entered the buildings designed in 1902, I was amazed at the overall design and craftsmanship. Constructed of local sandstone and Douglas fir, they were built to last hundreds of years. I feel very fortunate to be able to care for this complex. Every time I enter the buildings, I think of the thousands of veterans who have been helped, and hope that the history of veterans being healed here continues long into the future.