November 11, 2015

Honoring the Places that Serve Veterans

  • By: Katharine Keane

Note: This Place Matters is a campaign that the National Trust started in 2009, before Black Lives Matter had come into being as a movement. Out of respect for Black Lives Matter and the important message behind it, we retired the campaign in June 2020. We encourage National Trust supporters to instead celebrate places that are important to them using the hashtags #SavingPlaces or #TellTheFullStory.

In addition to remembering those who fought and died for our country on holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, we also like to reflect on a few of the National Trust's National Treasures that have historically served our armed forces and now need our help to be preserved.

Opened in 1867, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home was originally designed for the recuperation of physically and mentally disabled soldiers who had survived the Civil War, and was later expanded to include a post office, library, recreation hall, theater, chapel, and recreation areas. A National Treasure since 2012, the project has been a collaborative effort with the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. In 2016, the Department of Veteran Affairs announced that they would rehabilitate six historic buildings on the premises.

Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902 and opened to patients in 1907. Battle Mountain Sanitarium was the only branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers designed solely as a medical facility. The National Trust, in collaboration with Save the VA at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, is eager to raise awareness and advocate for this National Treasure’s preservation. However, the site’s future remains unsure following the Department of Veterans Affairs’ recent publication of a study supporting the closure of the sanitarium to construct a new facility 60 miles away.

We asked a few visitors about why we it’s important to preserve these sites, how they honor our veterans, and why these places matter to them. Take a look at what they had to say.

Veterans Day, Dawn

“The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is the birthplace of veteran’s healthcare.” – Dawn McCarthy, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance

Veterans Day, Doc

Doc, a veteran and medic who served in Vietnam, sits in front of Old Main at Milwaukee Soldiers Home reminding us, “This Place Matters!”

Veterans Day, Andy

“One of the first things soldiers learn is to always take care of each other. That’s a charge that doesn’t just end when you come home and take off the uniform.” – Andy Gordon, Iraq War Veteran

Elaina and Claire Madlom

Elaina and Claire Madlom visit Milwaukee Soldiers Home for a tour.

Veterans Day, Gwen

“It helped me heal from the invisible wounds of war.” – Gwen Sheppard, Iraq War Veteran

Veterans Day, Genell

“This place matters to me not only because it’s an architectural gem, but because of its meaning to veterans everywhere.” – Genell Scheurell

Veterans Day, Jen

“This place matters because it is a place of healing and a place of history.” – Jen Sustar, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance

Veterans Day, Peter

“I think we need to be reminded constantly of why we have the freedoms that we do, and this is a great reminder.” – Peter Zanghi, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance

Veterans Day, TPM BattleSan

“Our veterans love the campus, the treatment, and our town. We need as much support as we can get from across the country to convince the rest of Congress and the VA to keep Battle Mountain open. ” – Don Ackerman (right), Army Veteran, Save the VA Committee. Also pictured: Robert Nelson (left), co-chair of Save the VA Committee, Navy veteran, retired VA employee; Patrick Russell (center), co-chair of Save the VA Committee, Army veteran (medic, Special Forces 1st Gp)

Veterans Day, Nick

“We are working toward rehabilitation of the buildings and eventual re-use to serve our current veterans. I am humbled and honored to be part of this effort.” – Nick Migan, Architect, Chequamegon Bay Group, Inc.

Veterans Day, Joe

“This place matters because it speaks so highly of our veteran community.” – Joe Campbell, Vietnam War veteran

Editor's note: We have updated this story as of November 2017 to reflect recent changes in our National Treasures.

Katharine Keane is a former editorial assistant at Preservation Magazine. She enjoys getting lost in new cities, reading the plaques at museums, and discovering the next great restaurant.

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