Celebrating a Preservation Win at Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home

August 22, 2016 by Virgil McDill

After a public advocacy campaign that began more than five years ago, we’re extremely proud to announce that several of the Soldiers’ Home buildings have been saved.

Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it had chosen the Alexander Company and the Milwaukee City Housing Authority to enter into an Enhanced Use Lease to rehabilitate six historic buildings on the grounds of the Soldiers Home, including the iconic Old Main. This was the outcome so many of us had long hoped for; not only will these historic buildings that once served Civil War soldiers be saved, they will be put back into the service of veterans for which they were originally built more than 150 years ago.

This effort began as an uphill battle. When the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance nominated the Soldiers’ Home to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2009, Old Main had a gaping hole in its roof—no small problem when you consider the length and intensity of Wisconsin winters!

But as the saying goes, “many hands make light work,” and we were never short of people willing to lend a hand to this campaign. Thanks to all of the people who have been there for this important place throughout the duration of this effort—including hundreds of people from throughout Wisconsin and across the country who tirelessly lent their support in ways large and small.

A special thanks goes out to the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, VISN 12, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs staff that were responsible for making the Enhanced Use Lease project happen, and for maintaining and rehabbing other Soldiers Home buildings, including the Ward Theater and the Old Hospital.

Most of all, we want to thank the many veterans who spoke out on behalf of the Soldiers’ Home. Your stories, collected here at the Save the Soldiers Home website, remain a stirring reminder of why we were doing this work in the first place.

For more than 150 years, this place has been a center of healing and recuperation for the men and women of our nation’s armed forces. Thanks to so many of you, after decades in which these buildings sat vacant, they will once again be places that veterans can call home.

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