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
Excerpt from The Sun-Herald (Biloxi, MS)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation on Tuesday named a century-old hospital for war veterans in Hot Springs as one of America's 11 most endangered historic places.
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium, built with pink sandstone in a Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style, is one of only 2,500 national historic landmarks in the country, said David J. Brown, the trust's executive vice president and chief preservation officer. "If you look at the building today, it's beautiful. It's been well kept, well maintained," Brown said. "But it's the plan that the VA has put forward to abandon the facility that really is the threat."
Written by Amy Cole, Team Member
Last week more than 250 people attended the first three National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public scoping meetings about the planned closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The purpose of the meetings was to give members of the public the opportunity to weigh in about the significant issues that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should analyze in depth as it begins its compliance with NEPA, ultimately resulting in an environmental impact statement to be completed in about two years. Public comments for this scoping phase will be accepted by the VA until August 16, a two-month extension from the original June 16 deadline date.
Only one person (the former director of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium facility) spoke in favor of the closure. All others spoke passionately, and often very personally, in favor of keeping the VA medical facility at Hot Springs. They talked about the quality of the medical care they received, the restorative value of the peaceful setting of the Hot Spring site, and the need for the VA to improve the data upon which it is basing its decisions. The National Trust spoke in favor of keeping the facility open, highlighting the fact that historic buildings can be rehabilitated to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and the importance of complying with all federal laws as they proceed. We will continue to actively participate in the NEPA process, pushing for the VA's continued use of Battle Mountain Sanitarium as a veterans medical facility.
Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager
When Battle Mountain Sanitarium opened 107 years ago in South Dakota's Black Hills, the U.S. Congress intended for it to provide necessary medical services to veterans as part of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, a network of homes and hospitals that signaled the first attempt by our nation's government to provide long-term care to volunteer soldiers. At the heart of the beautifully crafted campus was the desire to honor the men and women who served our country in the armed services, as well as their families. To this day, Battle Mountain Sanitarium is a beacon of pride amongst veterans who have served in the many wars and conflicts since it first opened its doors in 1907. More than that, it has continuously provided high quality care and treatment to thousands of these heroes.
Today, on Memorial Day, let's honor these men and women, the very ones who were cared for at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, and the very ones who are now fighting to keep the doors of this remarkable place of healing from closing forever, as proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
You can help support the veterans by telling the VA that this National Historic Landmark campus needs to remain open as a fully functioning veterans hospital. From now until June 16, the agency is accepting and considering public comments on the proposed reconfiguration of its Black Hills Health Care System. Click here for more information on how you can share your voice, either through written comments or by attending public meetings in Hot Springs and Rapid City, South Dakota. The thousands of veterans served by Battle Mountain Sanitarium need your help.
Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager
Following the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announcement in December 2011 to close the entire Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus and move veterans medical services north to Rapid City, The American Legion made its first visit to Hot Springs as part of its System Worth Saving program. The program aims to support VA Medical Centers across the agency’s nationwide health-care system. Each year task force members visit a select number of sites to understand facility needs in the continued provision of veterans’ healthcare. Reports are issued that focus on timely topics like rural healthcare and women’s healthcare.
Battle Mountain Sanitarium clearly falls within the category of rural healthcare, so The American Legion’s 2012 report on that topic has provided relevant information to help us make our case for the preservation and continued use of this National Historic Landmark. And our message to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium resonated enough with The American Legion during a recent visit with them in our Nation’s capital that they invested in a second visit to Hot Springs this past February out of concern for the impacts to veterans care in the VA Black Hills Health Care Network and, more broadly, to rural veterans healthcare across the country.
During this visit, representatives from The American Legion’s D.C. office and System Worth Saving Task Force held a town forum where dozens of veterans shared compelling and moving stories of how Battle Mountain Sanitarium has cared for and treated them over the years. The representatives then spent several days touring the VA Black Hills Health Care Network and meeting with the National Trust’s partner Save the VA to gain a better understanding of the place and people and the impacts they would sustain if the Hot Springs campus were shuttered.
The National Trust is building a working relationship with The American Legion to help ensure that veterans continue to receive the best medical care possible. Stay tuned for ways that this partnership will help move the needle in our work to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium.
David Giles on June 29, 2014
I have visited this site on multiple occasions. The ramps between floors are extremely steep, far exceeding the standards put in place by the ADA. hey are very difficult to manage if you are disabled. It would be fool hardy to risk a wheel chair down one of the ramps and a Sisyphean burden to push one up. It makes for a poor hospital by today's modern standards and has some major physical risks to staff and patients. Furthermore, the town of Hot Springs treats Vets badly but is angry the VA is moving. The building is beautiful, no doubt. The building should be preserved, but not as a hospital. It does not make for a reasonable hospital by today's standards. On a personal note the hospital served my great great grandfather after he was gassed following WWI and my family continues to be connected to it. I do value the building, but it is shameful to say the VA is a bad steward of this building. The VA must be committed to the needs of the veterans, not a building. And if this 100+ year old building is substandard in its physical dimensions to provide adequate care and be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act then the stewardship must fall to another party. The VA must be steward to hundreds of thousands of vets. Medical facilities are being built to be as cutting edge as possible and this building is far too costly to retrofit.
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.