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.
Established just after the Civil War, the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home is a 90-plus acre district that rests on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki Medical Center. One of only 43 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin, it contains some of the oldest and most historic buildings in the VA system. Though many of its buildings remain in use, three of the District's most visible buildings - the Chapel, Ward Theater, and Governor’s Mansion - are unoccupied and endangered.
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.