ABOUT THE MILWAUKEE SOLDIERS HOME
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District is an invaluable historical asset to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the nation. Established just after the Civil War, this 90-plus acre district rests on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center and represents Milwaukee’s role in furthering veteran care in America.
ABOUT THE MILWAUKEE SOLDIERS HOME
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District is an invaluable historical asset to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the nation. Established just after the Civil War, this 90-plus acre district rests on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center and represents Milwaukee’s role in furthering veteran care in America. One of only 43 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin, it is the most intact Soldiers Home in the country and the only one with the majority of its surrounding recuperative village remaining.
There’s a special reason Milwaukee is home to one of the nation’s original Soldiers Homes. During the Civil War, a group of women formed the West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society and worked to provide care and transitional housing to returning Civil War veterans in Wisconsin. They focused on assisting discharged soldiers with meals, medical care and temporary housing in rented buildings located in downtown Milwaukee. Without any formal system in place to care for the unprecedented number of sick, disabled and displaced soldiers, the West Side Soldiers' Aid Society began planning a permanent facility that would provide long-term solutions for Wisconsin veterans. Their vision was to create a home where Wisconsin veterans could receive medical treatment, housing and vocational training.
The Society organized a remarkable public fundraising event known as the Soldiers' Home Fair. The Fair opened in Milwaukee on June 28, 1865 and ran until the end of July. In that time, the fair committee raised more than $100,000, a significant amount of money for the time.
In the meantime, President Lincoln signed legislation creating a national system of homes for disabled veterans. In 1866, when the federal government began selecting sites for branches of the homes, local businessmen and politicians lobbied to construct a branch in Milwaukee. Eventually, the West Side Soldiers Aid Society was persuaded to transfer assets to the federal government for the purchase of the land that now houses the Milwaukee Soldiers Home.
ABOUT THE MILWAUKEE PRESERVATION ALLIANCE
The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA) is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting stewardship and awareness of the historic, cultural, and economic value of Milwaukee’s built heritage.
In 2011, MPA successfully nominated the Milwaukee Soldiers Home District to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, bringing national attention to the District and jumpstarting the preservation effort. The momentum from the designation spurred MPA’s work in partnership with the National Trust, Wisconsin Historical Society, National Park Service and others to create a framework and vision for rehabilitation of the Soldiers Home’s vacant buildings.
From day one, MPA’s goal was to return the Soldiers Home’s vacant buildings to their original purpose: to serve the veterans who served our country.
MPA’s “Save the Soldiers Home” effort reached a critical milestone when, in 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs sought a developer to rehabilitate a number of the District's unused historic buildings. A team led by The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee was chosen by the VA and MPA stepped in to help fundraise and manage the $3 million capital campaign necessary to fill the project's financing gap.
Thanks to the rehabilitation project, MPA’s vision became a reality with the unprecedented successful rehabilitation and reuse of Old Main and five other historic buildings as homeless veteran housing.
The recent rehabilitation project is only the beginning as MPA and the Save the Soldiers Home effort have focused their attention on three additional vacant historic buildings that need saving: The Soldiers Home Chapel, Ward Memorial Theater and the Governor’s Mansion.