Discover / Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
LOCATION:
Milwaukee, WI
TYPE: Building
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home was built in 1867. | Photo: Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home was built in 1867. | Photo: Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
Opportunity
Save and reuse vacant buildings at the historic Soldiers Home to meet the needs of today’s veterans.

Overview

Since 1867, the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home campus has provided care to veterans throughout the region. Though many of the Soldiers Home buildings remain in use, three of the largest and most visible – Old Main, Ward Memorial Hall, and Home Chapel – are currently unoccupied with roofs in danger of collapse. The buildings could be lost unless they are restored to support veterans’ needs.

A community advisory council has formed to help save the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. This group includes members from the veteran, preservation, and historical communities, as well as representatives of neighborhoods, associations, and organizations. The council has created a consensus report that describes the most critical veteran needs and how vacant Soldiers Home buildings could be used to meet those needs. The report is being shared with Veterans Administration personnel in charge of the site.

National Significance

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District is one of three remaining original Soldiers Homes in the country. It is an outstanding representation of the development of a national system of medical and residential benefits for disabled veterans. The homes were designed as places of refuge and recuperation for physically and mentally disabled soldiers who had survived the Civil War.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home contains some of the oldest buildings in the VA system, and the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape is still intact. Old Main is the only original Soldiers Home building in the country designed to combine multiple basic veteran care functions under one roof. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is beloved by veterans who believe its recuperative powers should remain accessible to aging Vietnam vets and returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Campaign Goals

  • Create and fund a plan that will identify how to best reuse the vacant Soldiers Home buildings and how much it will cost to restore them.
  • Find interested parties who can restore the buildings to provide services and treatment for veterans.

Ways To Help

Endorse the report supporting the reuse of the Soldiers Home.

Donate to support our advocacy work at the Soldiers Home.

Tell us why the Soldiers Home matters to you.

Posted on December 17, 2014

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Earlier this year representatives of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the "Save the [Battle Mountain Sanitarium] VA" group met with The American Legion in Washington, D.C., to share our work on our two VA National Treasures – rehabbing and reusing vacant buildings at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home and preventing the closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Recently, in a resolution regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs' preservation of national historic properties, The American Legion took up the cause to retain medical center services at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, and also requested Section 111 guidance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Section 111 guidance will provide an opportunity to return the Milwaukee Soldiers Home District's vacant buildings to the service of veterans through long-term leases that would enable the VA to leverage private investment, rather than rely on limited federal funding.

Beyond the ask for long-term leasing, The American Legion urged Congress to establish a construction funding account within the VA dedicated to maintenance of the VA's historic medical facilities. The American Legion also asked Congress to enact legislation that would establish an office within the VA to oversee this work and develop an annual reporting process.

This is great news for all of the VA's historic properties, including the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. As the National Trust for Historic Preservation works with the American Legion on legislative actions to support these resolutions, we'll continue to keep you updated on our progress.

To learn more about the Save the Soldiers Home effort, and to download a free downloadable walking tour app, visit http://www.savethesoldiershome.com/.

Please check back often for additional updates on Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work that this National Treasure.

Posted on October 22, 2014

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Milwaukee Magazine ImageThere are many reasons to love Milwaukee. From local breweries, festivals and nightlife to major league sports – Milwaukee has it all. But in addition to these well-known Milwaukee staples, there are a few unique and arguably one-of-a-kind reasons to love Milwaukee, one of which is the Milwaukee Soldiers Home (Soldiers Home). 

Hidden on the grounds of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, the Soldiers Home is one of Wisconsin’s most notable historical assets and one that the Trust, in partnership with the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, has been working hard to save.

Recently, Milwaukee Magazine named the Soldiers Home one of its “Reasons to Love Milwaukee.” I have to say, I agree.

According to the article:

Tucked away behind Miller Park is one of three remaining (original) Soldiers Homes in the country. Built in 1867, it’s one of the first locations of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The philosophy behind creating the Soldiers Home was to have a safe haven “for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan,” according to President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address. Restoration efforts at the site are ongoing, and the Milwaukee VA hopes to soon renovate nine historic buildings for homeless veteran housing.

Milwaukee is often known for its tradition of brewing and manufacturing, but its history goes far deeper than that. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is an important part of our nation’s history. Our hope is that more and more people will agree with Milwaukee Magazine and discover for themselves that the Soldiers Home is one of the great reasons to love Milwaukee.

To learn more about the Save the Soldiers Home effort, and to download a free downloadable walking tour app, visit http://www.SavetheSoldiersHome.com

Please check back often for additional updates on Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust’s ongoing work that this National Treasure.

Posted on September 30, 2014

By Dawn McCarthy, President of the Board, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance 

On Sunday, September 21, 50 people had a unique opportunity to experience an invaluable historical asset to the nation -- the Milwaukee Soldiers Home on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center.

The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance teamed with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center to offer two “behind the scenes” tours as part of the fourth annual Doors Open Milwaukee event. Doors Open Milwaukee provides rare access to more than 150 Milwaukee buildings, free-of-charge to the public. Each building boasts “hidden treasures and special stories.”

The Soldiers Home is no exception! The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is one of the three original Soldiers Homes in the country -- facilities built to care for returning Civil War veterans -- with some of the oldest buildings in the VA system. This was the second year that a Soldiers Home tour was available through Doors Open Milwaukee and the demand was high. People lined up for free tickets and they were gone in less than 10 minutes!

Tour participants, including veterans and some who had traveled from across the state, were enthralled with the historic buildings. They were also interested in the future of the district and, more specifically, its vacant buildings.

This weekend was an excellent opportunity to share the Soldiers Home story with the public; provide an update on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance’s progress toward helping the VA return the District’s vacant buildings to the service of veterans; and raise awareness of one of Milwaukee’s “hidden jewels.”

To learn more about the Save the Soldiers Home effort, and to download a free downloadable walking tour app, visit http://www.SavetheSoldiersHome.com.

Please check back often for additional updates on Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust’s ongoing work that this National Treasure.

 Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
Both photos credit: Milwaukee Preservation Alliance

Posted on September 19, 2014

Written by Sarah Berger, Public Affairs Intern

Take a behind the scenes tour of Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home this Sunday, September 21, during Doors Open Milwaukee’s fourth annual architectural open house event. More than 150 buildings, bars and parks are open to the public offering in-house tour guides to answer questions and share historical facts.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home, open since 1867, has served as a safe haven for veterans during their transition back to civilian life. As one of the first locations of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site is an outstanding representation of the development of a national system of medical and residential benefits for disabled veterans.

The Soldiers Home Historic District features a significant amount of buildings in the Victorian style, many of which were designed by local architects Henry C. Koch and Edward Townsend Mix. Join Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and others who care deeply about the Soldiers Home for an in-depth, outdoor guided walking tour through the grounds and learn about the architecture and history of the buildings.

Tickets are required for both Sunday tours at 2pm and 4pm. Each tour will last one hour and can accommodate 25 people. Pick up tickets the day of the tour at 10am at Milwaukee City Hall (200 E. Wells St.) on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information on Doors Open Milwaukee, as well as this weekend’s events, visit their website: doorsopenmilwaukee.org.

Please check back often for additional updates on Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust’s ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on July 16, 2014

VA road signThe positive momentum at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home continued with two recent developments.

First, after a brutally cold winter, the advent of warmer weather (finally!) ushered in the return of construction season in Milwaukee. At the Soldiers Home, the VAMC has a lengthy punch list of projects they hope to complete this summer, including:

  • The Old Hospital Building (1879) will be completely re-roofed, with wood re-painted and windows and doors repaired. Additionally, the building’s chimney will be re-constructed and wrought iron decorative cresting will be newly fabricated or repaired.
  • The Barracks Buildings will undergo repointing, scraping and painting. Additionally, the buildings’ gutters and downspouts will be fixed and shingles will be replaced where needed. The porches will also undergo repairs and be painted.
  • And the Ward Theater, built in 1881 and currently vacant, will be reroofed and undergo exterior masonry and porch repairs.

These much-needed repairs demonstrate important progress as the National Trust continues work on the overall goal of working with the VA to address the critical need for a long-term solution that will return the Soldiers Homes’ vacant buildings to the service of veterans.

Another key goal of the Trust’s work at the Soldiers Home is to raise the visibility of this National Treasure, and we are pleased to report progress on that front as well. This month, thanks to a successful fundraising campaign undertaken by our local partners at the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation installed new signs along Interstate 94 directing visitors to the Soldiers Home.

We were inspired by the overwhelming community response to this fundraising campaign, which included many individual donations as well as a $5,000 matching grant from the National Trust. The signs will be seen by tens of thousands of travelers along I-94, serving as a permanent invitation to visit Milwaukee’s iconic National Treasure.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home.  Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on May 13, 2014

Posted by Virgil McDill

The enduring educational value of the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home was on display recently, when a group of students from Hamilton High School toured the campus as part of an after-school program organized by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

As this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, the students had attended a play called “The Whipping Man” about a Jewish Confederate Civil War soldier returning home after the war. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s education director was looking for a Civil War-era place in Milwaukee that could add to the students’ understanding of the era, and—with its buildings dating to shortly after the end of the Civil War—she found the perfect place in the Soldiers Home.

The article calls the Soldiers’ Home a “hidden treasure,” and notes that “Megan Daniels, project manager for the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, frequently hears from folks, including many native Milwaukeeans, who tell her they had never heard of the Soldiers Home.”

It is a treasure, but it doesn’t have to stay hidden. For anyone who has admired the Soldiers Home from afar and wondered what this amazing collection of historic buildings looks like up close, this is a perfect time. Walking tours, organized by the National Trust and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, offer visitors a chance to see the campus for themselves. And as we’ve noted before, a walking tour app for both iPhone and Android devices is available for free download at the Apple and GooglePlay sites. For more information about touring the Soldiers Home, please visit http://savethesoldiershome.com/tour/.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 15, 2014

Dawn McCarthyPosted by Dawn McCarthy, President, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance

Please donate now to help Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, Inc. raise money for signage at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home.

One message that MPA hears often about the Soldiers Home is "Where is it? I never heard of it." The other message we hear most often about the Soldiers Home is "OMG. The Soldiers Home is so incredible. How did I live in Milwaukee all of my life and not know about it."

The best thing we can do as a community to Save the Soldiers Home is to make sure everyone knows it's there, because once you see it, you can't help caring that it gets restored. Our goal is to help the VAMC get the buildings restored and put back to use in service to veterans.

Please donate now at milwaukeepreservationalliance.org.

Thank you!

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 07, 2013

Amy Cole

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 Milwaukee Soldier’s Home 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.

VA Report

The report identifies four main recommendations to help save places in the VA’s portfolio of more than 2,000 historic buildings:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Opportunities to reuse and protect the VA’s historic buildings through private developers and other non-governmental parties should be expanded and actively promoted.

4. 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.

Two local representatives had this to say about the study and the Milwaukee Soldiers Home,

Megan Daniels, Manager for the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Project, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance --

“Overall, the report is incredibly informative and comprehensive...  The recommendations put forth by the National Trust really underscore the work that we have been doing at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home... I truly hope that Milwaukee could be a model for other VA campus’s to follow in order to be stewards of their own unique and nationally significant historic assets while also providing quality health care to our nation’s veterans.”

Bill Goralski, President, Allied Veterans Council, Milwaukee --

"These buildings are great educational tools, like a show-and-tell to teach young people about the sacrifices veterans have made. You don’t have to be a veteran to understand that – anyone who visits the place gets that idea... People need to come to Milwaukee and see the hospital grounds. What they did for veterans by building this place is just phenomenal.  We want to celebrate these places that have done so much for the warriors who’ve spent time there.

Destroying the history of your country is just wrong. We need the people of this country—especially veterans—to speak up. These places are sacred ground and people need to speak up for them before they’re gone."


Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on October 08, 2013

 Genell Scheurell, Project ManagerPosted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Two guided tours of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Landmark Historic District, presented by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance for the first time during the Doors Open on September 21st, were so successful they surpassed everyone's expectations.  The ticketed tours of 40 were filled and people just showed up on the grounds trying to get in.  People were so excited about the opportunity to get into the Ward Theater, a special tour surprise leaked to the press pre-event, that they were waiting in line to get tickets at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.  The Ward Theater hadn't been open to the public for several years.  Another family made a point to bring their 90+ year old mother who had once performed on the stage at Ward Theater.

 If there was ever any question about the public's passion for the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, this dispelled those doubts.

If you'd like to take your own self-guided walking tour of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, you might not be able to see the interior of the Ward Theater, but you will be able to see one of Milwaukee's most beautiful historic assets.

To Download the Walking Tour:

Smartphone Users: The app is available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. To download the app, visit the store on your mobile device and search Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Users should fully download the app prior to taking the tour.

MP3 Player Users: The walking tour audio files are also available for download and use on MP3 players. To download the file for use on an MP3 player, click here.

A companion map to the walking tour, complete with stops and building names is available for download at http://goo.gl/H9NrA.

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on August 16, 2013

Genell ScheurellPosted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

There's exciting news coming from Milwaukee!  For the first time, the two-day Doors Open Milwaukee event, that takes place on September 21-22, 2013, is going to include guided tours of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Landmark Historic District. Two in-depth guided tours of the grounds and exteriors of the buildings (2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.) will be offered by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance on September 21st only. 

These two special tours are one of the Doors Open Public Tours which means tickets will be requried for each of the two tours.  Tickets are given out FREE TO THE PUBLIC on a first-come, first-served basis and will be distributed at City Hall at 10am on the morning of the tour. 

DETAILS:

Ticket: Required

Day/Time: Sat, Sept. 21st, 2pm and 4pm  

Duration: 45-60min  

Capacity: 25  

Meet: 5000 W. National Ave, at the fountain in front of Old Main.

For more information, click here.

If you are unable to join this guided tour but would still like to see the Soldiers Home, a downloadable a self-guided walking tour is available at:

Smartphone Users: The app is available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. To download the app, visit the App Store on your mobile device and search Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Users should fully download the app prior to taking the tour.

MP3 Player Users: The walking tour audio files are also available for download and use on MP3 players. To download the file for use on an MP3 player, click here.

A Companion Map to the walking tour, complete with stops and building names is available for download at http://goo.gl/H9NrA

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure. - See more at: http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/milwaukee-soldiers-home#sthash.0If...

 

 

Posted on July 19, 2013

Genell Scheurell

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Smartphone app provides audio, photos and historical walking tour of Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District

Today we announced the launch of a free walking tour Smartphone app and MP3 download complete with historical photos, audio narration and key historical facts about Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home Historic District.   

The walking tour app, narrated by State Historic Preservation Officer, Jim Draeger, is currently available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. The tour is also available via MP3 download. For more information on the tour and to download a corresponding map of the district, please visit SavetheSoldiersHome.com.

We put together the walking tour because there are still many people in the area that have never walked the grounds and we hope this will encourage more people to visit the grounds and learn about this National Treasure as well as the veterans that were and continue to be served there.

The walking tour is also an excellent way for community organizations, business groups, school classrooms and interested community members to learn more about an important piece of Milwaukee’s history and to use modern technology to explore some of the region’s, and arguably the entire nation’s, most notable history.

To Download the Walking Tour:

  • Smartphone Users: The app is available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. To download the app, visit the store on your mobile device and search Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Users should fully download the app prior to taking the tour.
  • MP3 Player Users: The walking tour audio files are also available for download and use on MP3 players. To download the file for use on an MP3 player, click here.
  • A companion map to the walking tour, complete with stops and building names is available for download at http://goo.gl/H9NrA.

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure. - See more at: http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/milwaukee-soldiers-home#sthash.0If...

Posted on July 03, 2013

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

As I think about the soldiers who fought and died at the Battle of Gettysburg 150 years ago this week, I am once again grateful for the history that lives on at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home and Wood National Cemetery.

In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln called on the nation to "care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." In response, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established by Congress in 1865 and signed into law by President Lincoln just a month before his assassination. The legislation officially set forth the concern and commitment of the federal government for the well-being of the civilian soldier. Each of the 11 original Homes, built over the course of several years, was a concrete reminder of the federal government’s support of veterans. 

For more than a century, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home has carried out President Lincoln's charge. It is an important example of how veteran’s benefits and health care developed in the United States from the Civil War to today, and is demonstrated through the buildings that have been added over time to the campus. As our nation remembers the Battle of Gettysburg and celebrates this 4th of July, I invite you to learn more about the Milwaukee Soldiers Home and the work we are doing to return its vacant buildings to the service of veterans who have fought and died in other conflicts to ensure our independence.

Image 1709 8x12

Posted on June 14, 2013

GenellPosted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

I wanted to share with you one of the beautiful aerial images of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home just finished by Mark Fay, Faystron Photo, Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

 

Posted on May 06, 2013

Genell Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

On April 26th, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center hosted a tremendously successful unveiling of a hand-struck brass National Historic Landmark District plaque that will be mounted in a place of honor in the District. Several dignitaries were there to participate in the tribute including Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett; Michael Reynolds, Midwest Regional Director, National Park Service; and Robert Beller, Director, Milwaukee VA Medical Center. In addition, color guards in period uniforms and Civil War re-enactors in period dress lent a historic ambiance to the occasion.

The fantastic weather was just the topping to a beautiful and moving commemoration of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home District listing as a National Historic Landmark. The speakers were truly inspiring and the size of the audience underscored the importance of the NHL district to veterans, preservationists and Milwaukee residents.

WWI Color Guard

Milwaukee Soldiers Home NHL Plaque Dedication

 

 

 

 

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on April 19, 2013

Genell ScheurellPosted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager and Dawn McCarthy, President, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance 

Two staunch supporters of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Stephanie Meeks, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, co-authored an opinion piece published in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (see below).

The piece also highlighted the upcoming celebration hosted by the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center to unveil the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District plaque. For more information and to RSVP to attend the event, please click here

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Celebrate our Soldiers Home

By Gwen Moore and Stephanie Meeks

Just west of Miller Park, on the grounds of the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, lies a series of historic, ornate buildings known as the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. These buildings once welcomed home veterans of the Civil War and, in the ensuing decades, have allowed generations of our soldiers to heal and adjust as they returned to their pre-war lives.

The Soldiers Home has served our veterans for more than a century, and its historic significance cannot be overlooked.

In recognition of this significance, last summer, the Soldiers Home was designated a National Historic Landmark. The distinction is the highest level of recognition a site can receive and puts the Milwaukee Soldiers Home in the company of just 41 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin and fewer than 2,500 across the nation.

While most area residents have seen these buildings while tailgating at the stadium or driving on I-94, many people have not had the opportunity to experience up close the grandeur of the Soldiers Home. Along with Veterans Affairs, we would like to invite community members to attend the official unveiling of the National Historic Landmark plaque on April 26 and help celebrate this important milestone.

Click here to read more.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.


Posted on March 28, 2013

Headshot

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

 One of the most touching stories of a veteran’s relationship to the very special Milwaukee Soldiers Home has been put on YouTube.  Here is Howard Hinterthuer speaking eloquently about the meaning of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home to local veterans.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on March 19, 2013

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

A ceremony to unveil the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District plaque is being hosted by the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. For more information on the District's designation as a National Historic Landmark, please click here.  This is an exciting time for the Soldiers Home District and you are invited to join us in celebrating this important designation.  To view a PDF of the invitation, including information on parking and directions, please click here.

Click here for more information, including a PDF of the invitation, with parking information and directions.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

 

Posted on March 15, 2013

 Written by Julia Rocchi, Managing Editor, Online

 (l.) Lydia Ely Hewitt, President, Wisconsin Soldiers' Home; (r.) Fanny Burling Buttrick, Vice President, Wisconsin Soldiers' Home

The Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home was one of the first soldiers' homes in the country, and the only one where it's still possible to experience the buildings and designed landscape together in something close to their original form. The 90-acre campus has served veterans continuously since shortly after the Civil War and includes some of the oldest buildings in the entire VA system.

But this special site would not have been possible in the first place without the dedicated efforts of the West Side Soldiers' Aid Society, a group of women in Milwaukee committed to creating a place for veterans to heal and recuperate. 

Click here to read their story on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's blog.

 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 08, 2013

Written by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

The construction firm working on Milwaukee Soldiers Home Ward Theatrethe collapsed roof on the rear of Old Main (Bldg 2) has been able to close it up before the worst of a Wisconsin winter closes in. At the Ward Theatre (Bldg 41). the contractors have staged their operations and are finalizing shoring and connection to the underside of the historic timber trusses in order to support them during the truss repair. So, work is ready to begin on the Ward Theatre. 

The Milwaukee VA held a very productive Sec. 106 Quarterly Meeting with all consulting parties on Dec. 12-13.  An MOA was drafted suggesting a mutually agreeable site for a new Fisher House, that provides free housing for families of VA patients, which will be built on the Milw VAMC campus but outside of the NHL District. The Trust was given time on the agenda to share the work we've done around the site including the Community Advisory Council's Consensus Report which became the foundation of the group's discussion concerning potential VA reuses of the Ward Theatre (Bldg 41).  Everyone agreed that the Trust should continue to move forward with its plans for a feasibility study to identify rehab costs and potential non-VA reuses of Old Main (Bldg 2).

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on December 07, 2012

Posted by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home

Check out our recommendations and sign on to show your support!  See Save the Soldiers Home.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 19, 2012

Written by Amy Cole, Team Member

We are pleased to announce that the National Trust has just issued a Request for Proposals for a report on the Department of Veterans Affairs Cultural Resource Program.  As we have learned in our work at Battle Mountain Sanitarium and at the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home, the VA’s current policies and practices present formidable challenges in managing its incredible collection of historic buildings as it strives to meet its mission to care for America’s veterans.  We see this as a national issue and believe agency-wide progress can be made by developing and sharing a report that identifies these challenges and provides recommendations for improvement.

The RFP can be found at  http://www.preservationnation.org/rfp. Proposals are due November 30, 2012 at 5 pm and any questions about the RFQ should be directed to Amy Cole at  ACole@savingplaces.org, with a copy to Diana Maxwell at DMaxwell@savingplaces.org.

Proposals are due November 30, 2012, at 5 pm.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 09, 2012

Written by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

The National Trust is formally announcing the Milwaukee Soldiers Home as one of our National Treasures beginning with an editorial in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. To see the article, click here.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing advocacy work at this National Treasure.

Old Main
Posted on September 18, 2012

Old Main Roof RepairWritten by Genell Scheurell, Project Manager

Good news at the Soldiers Home!

Repairs have started on the roof that collapsed on the back section of Old Main (Building 2). While the repair contract runs for nine months, there’s every hope that this part of the roof will be buttoned up before the bad weather sets in.

According to the Milwaukee VA Medical Center's update at the Section 106 quarterly meeting last week, they expect that repairs on Ward Memorial Hall (Building 41) will begin soon.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on July 17, 2012

Written by Genell Scheurell

My name is Genell Scheurell, and I'm a senior field officer in the National Trust’s Chicago Field Office. I’m also the project manager for the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. We have big plans for the rehabilitation and reuse of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, and we’ll be reporting on our progress here as events unfold. 

Which brings me to what is happening right now at the site – fencing. It's going up around some of the buildings on the grounds, but don't be alarmed. These aren't preparations for demolition or any other scary things that could happen to historic buildings.

At a recent meeting, Veterans Affairs personnel advised a number of us representing historic preservation organizations that, due to break-ins at the vacant buildings, they felt they needed to secure Old Main (Building 2), Ward Memorial Hall (Building 41), and Soldiers Chapel (Building 12). According to the VA, these are temporary measures that will help protect the buildings from further intrusions, and therefore potential damage. The fencing will also protect staging areas for upcoming work on these buildings.

Some other work planned for the Soldiers Home Historic District that has been reviewed and approved by the architects at the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office includes:

    • Repairs to the roofs of Old Main (Building 2) and Ward Memorial Hall (Building 41) should begin no later than the end of September or early October.
    • Preparation for the construction of two to four new assisted living facilities should begin in July. 
    • Drain tile was installed around the basement of the Recreation Building (Building 4) to prevent water infiltration.
    • A non-historic smokestack on the grounds will be demolished.
    • Interior-only changes to the Laundry Building (Building 102) will be made to accommodate a change from laundry use to sanitizing instruments for the VA hospital.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Soldiers Home. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

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Steve Bogart on August 03, 2014
My Great Great Grandfather Levant Van De Bogart lived there in the turn of the century in 1900. He served with the 21st. Wisconsin Infantry during the war. He was a member of the GAR...I am a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Carol Herman on June 12, 2014
I have seen that big tall tower from the freeway as well as the cemetery driving by many times over many years and always wondered about it...I rented a car in Fall 2013 and drove over to the historic district and cemetery, I'm glad I did. I marveled at all the old buildings and the history of the entire area. I Was very amazed by all. I have been doing research on Milwaukee County since the mid 1980s, and as I get older...I really appreciate the history of Milwaukee. This area was the highlight!
Linda Marker on June 11, 2013
I was a nursing instructor from UWM and had senior students who did a rotation with the Dom vets when they still lived in the main dom building. The first day of clinical we got a tour of all the buildings- the library, Ward theater, the chapel. Even then- 1979 and 1980 -the buildings needed repair. We had a Christmas party for the Dom vets in the library and I dressed up as Santa and the students provided food and decorations. Our time with the vets and this special place will not be forgotten. I believe the vets felt special having these students and the students and I sure felt honored. I very much hope this place can be saved!!!
Leo Bethge on May 20, 2013
I've always had a passion for architecture and specifically how it affects the human spirit. When I was a kid I always knew of that old Victorian tower of Old Main, but after I served and came back for care, there were many occasions that I sat and contemplated my own thoughts. Though I was dealing with my own level of PTSD I absorbed the gracious surroundings of mature trees and buildings designed to mend the body and spirit. There is peace and tranquility at this site, which is what us veterans need. All of the buildings need to be rehabbed since they are history and the future. There are many needs of today's homecoming vets that need to be fulfilled, and these buildings could serve these needs, of which also includes the grounds surrounding these historic buildings. I believe in preservation, since these buildings tell a story for today's and future generations - but these buildings, like cemeteries are special places worthy of special protection and preservation.
Arvid Tillman on April 22, 2013
I was a laborer in the late 50's working my way through college. I was unloading box cars of bricks at the nearby railroad siding and transporting them to what has now become the main hospital. Before work, during the lunch hour and sometimes after work I used to spend time with the veterans and listen to their war stories and music. One fellow played an amazing banjo and it really was a great attraction to me... I learned to respect what those fellows did for us.
Cheryl Adams on March 28, 2013
The lawns, trees and isolation from street traffic at the Soldiers Home must certainly have had a calming affect on any soldier or sailor who sought to escape the noise and dangers of war while healing both physically & mentally.
Peter Bruce Photo on March 16, 2013
Pls help people CLEVELAND Dam it ARCHITECTURE needs you,take 2 mins & sign this and save a land mark and pass it to as many people as poss It will be your fault and your loss if it goes. https://www.change.org/petitions/councilman-jay-westbrook-cudell-improvement-director-anita-brindza-requesting-a-town-hall-meeting-prior-to-the-sale-or-demolition-of-fifth-church?utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition
John Hien on March 13, 2013
I think vets, certainly disabled vets, who lived there thought "This was built for me" and appreciated what was offered. I hope the buildings are not torn down, but rehabbed, preserving their beauty and elegance, and made useful again.
Maryagnes Kuehmichel on March 13, 2013
For me as a Nam vet it always helps even to drive through the grounds and see the beauty both manmade and natural. This new batch of vets seem to be having more physical trauma due to the IEDs so anything that calms and helps them heal is beneficial.
Michael Smith on March 13, 2013
Over the years, the peaceful setting most certainly must have contributed to the rehabilitation and renewal of many of the residents. We are extremely fortunate to have this Soldiers Home here in Milwaukee. We should marshall all possible resources, public and private, to preserve this fabulous resource for our veterans of today and tomorrow.
Jose Dehoyos on March 13, 2013
It's on a sacred and respected location with so much history and when I'm there taking pictures it helps me relax and think about all the spirits that are still there.
Hugh Swofford on March 13, 2013
My great Uncle lived on the grounds. He was in the domiciliary until he was in his 90's and then was moved to the VA hospital. I visited him there in 1978 when he was about 100.
Meghan Deutsch on March 13, 2013
Its the most amazingly beautiful place--the rolling hills of green, all the trees. Its a peaceful place of remembrance. I love all of the history that it holds--the memories of the people that will live there forever and the amazing buildings. I can only imagine all of the amazing stories that the places hold.
Laura Lutter Cole on March 13, 2013
I moved to Milwaukee in 1997, and being a huge Civil War historical enthusiast, read about The Old Soldiers Home. Little did I know just four years later I would live less than a mile away and be able to enjoy its grandeur on a regular basis. Then I learned my Uncle was buried there, so it's even more special to me. Living in a nearby neighborhood, I visit Wood [Cemetery] regularly. While walking my dog I enjoy the peaceful serenity and take in the beauty of the buildings, landscape, and truly appreciate our fortune as a community to have this rare historic treasure in our backyard.
Richard Bowen on March 13, 2013
I love the un-landscaped rolling hills, the pathways and the small lakes. The building architecture is outstanding and gives one a clear view of the past. I have biked through the grounds many times and it is a good place to bike. I enjoy the historical plaques and was able to spend some time in the library.
Diane L. Hatchell, PhD on November 09, 2012
I did my graduate school training and research at Wood VA Hospital in the laboratory of Shirley Johnson, PhD, from 1963-1968. After I obtained my PhD in physiology from Marquette University in 1968, I was employed as a Research Scientist at Wood VA and rose to the rank of Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I moved to the Durham NC VA Hospital and Duke University in 1983. I retired in 2000 and returned to Wisconsin as a year round resident in 2009. I am proud of my 30 plus years of service in the Veterans Administration I regret that I never took time to explore the National Soldiers Home in the 20 years that I worked on the Wood VA campus. Their stately presence on campus was readily apparent and we were proud that retired veterans were cared for there. I don’t know how the buildings were allowed to deteriorate but believe that it would be very sad for the memories contained there to be eradicated by loss of the buildings and failure to develop the grounds for use by the public and especially veterans. It would be wonderful to see the buildings restored to their prior glory and put to use in the service of veterans. I strongly support the Consensus Report and look forward to being part of the process in some way.
Howard Hinterthuer on October 18, 2012
As a boy, I gazed across the right field fence at County Stadium and saw hundreds of veterans blanketing the hillside in front of Old Main. “What’s that Dad,” I asked. “That is the Veterans Home,” he replied. “They are guys who were wounded during the war.” “What are they doing?” I asked. “Watching the game,” he said. “They can see over the fence from up there.” It’s nice to know they have a place, I thought to myself. The shingled look of Old Main seemed like a voice from the past, with stories to tell. Vietnam vets like me were told not to wear our uniforms on the flight from Seattle to our homes. “There’s no sense in stirring up trouble with protesters in airports,” the army advised. I’m sure it was intended as a kindness. They sincerely wished us a safe journey and hoped we wouldn’t bloody the nose of someone taunting “baby killer!” Veterans from all wars have often struggled with a variety of issues coming home. In my case, my girlfriend had “gone hippy” and was living with another guy. My parents were in Europe. I had no one to pick me up at the airport, and thoughts of sleeping in my own bed were nothing more than a dream. Mom had turned my room into an office. To me the message seemed to be, “We didn’t think you’d come home.” In truth, it is more likely I was just simply off of their day-to-day radar—sort of a non-person. But readjusting to “home” is also problematic in the sense that each of us had been profoundly changed. My friend, Robert, spent a month on the couch sleeping, emotionally paralyzed. His mom finally said, “Robert. You have to get off the couch and do something.” So Robert went back to Vietnam as a civilian, got off the plane in Saigon, kissed the tarmac, hitched a ride back to his old unit, and opened a bar. Robert told me, “Vietnam seemed more like home to me. It also made more sense.” Here’s the whacky thing: I understood perfectly how he felt. The military has been dumping broken people back into civilian life since David slew Goliath. At times we’ve done a good job addressing their physical wounds. My training as a clinical specialist was world class. As a twenty-two-year-old, I was effective in my job and well prepared for a host of unbelievable challenges. We knew how to deal with all sorts of physical insults. But psychological and spiritual pain is a tougher nut to crack, diagnosis- and treatment-wise. Returning veterans need a healing environment where they are able to transition from the insanity and loss of personal control that characterize combat, to a state of relative calm and personal safety. They need another sort of “basic training,” the kind that will prepare them for normality. All vets need it, to varying degrees, and honestly, it is hard to predict who will need it or when issues may bubble up. The Veterans Home could serve the purposes of “retraining” vets for civilian life, and touching up the dents along the way. It can also be a research institution devoted to developing effective methodologies. In many ways, The Veterans Home is the perfect setting. The historic architecture, mature trees, bucolic grounds, and village ambience speak of solid continuity and calm. Even the cemetery says, “You will be cared for and cared about.” These elements have iconic value. Combine them with meaningful activities that engage and connect vets with each other and with their families, and you have a recipe for success. That’s the way it looks from here.
Elizabeth Hummitzsch on October 18, 2012
My first experience with Milwaukee's Soldiers Home Historic District was when it was named one of the 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I remember learning about the buildings and remarking that I hadn't heard of them before. I went out to the District to walk around the site and I remember seeing Old Main for the first time and shortly after, seeing this picture. The size and detail of Old Main is overwhelming. If you haven't seen it in-person I recommend getting out to the site. The building itself incites a sense of awe but then to step back and think about the history it possess makes it even more powerful. To see it open to the elements and threatened due to the roof collapse was saddening. I am encouraged by recent efforts to stabilize the building - all in the name of returning it to the service of our veterans, its original purpose.
Megan Daniels, Milwaukee, WI on July 05, 2012
I first experienced the National Soldiers Home in Milwaukee on an unexpectedly warm, sunny April afternoon. I had gone in search of the almost haunting tower that loomed over the tree line just west of Miller Park; it was unlike any other in the city beckoning my curiosity from across the freeway. The nature of the former recuperative village took hold of my afternoon where I pleasantly strolled between the buildings rekindling the grounds original use as center for veteran healing and a tranquil park for the residents of Milwaukee.
Bob Curry, Milwaukee, WI on July 05, 2012
I first discovered these gems of history when I strolled up a hill taking a break from my PTSD groups at the VA Hospital. These grounds and buildings talked of an earlier time, when healing was not just about pills and procedures. It was about nature, fresh air, and majestic trees; where the buildings themselves are art. A place where the community helped heal their veterans by visiting on the weekends, both enjoying music in the park and the company of each other. We could learn much from these healers of a century ago, to help our newest generation of veterans heal their wounds of war.

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