Milwaukee VA Commits to Stabilizing Old Main, Ward Theater
In September, a Programmatic Agreement (PA) was signed between the Milwaukee VA, who owns the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, and a number of consulting parties including the National Park Service and the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office. As part of the programmatic agreement, the VA committed to begin stabilization of the two most threatened buildings – Old Main and the Ward Memorial Theater. The agreement also sets a standard for continued rehabilitation of and comprehensive planning for the Soldiers Home District.
“The programmatic agreement signed by the Milwaukee VA is a victory for everyone,” said Scheurell. “It advances the new Community Living Centers for long-term veteran care, while saving two of the district’s most threatened buildings, so they too can be returned to the service of veterans.”
The PA stemmed from the VA’s intention to demolish building 37 (the former quartermaster’s quarters) and construct four Community Living Centers (CLCs) on the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home grounds. A review of proposed construction plans is mandatory when a federal agency will be spending money that will impact a National Historic Landmark. As part of the PA, the VA agreed that:
Construction of the CLCs must be compatible with the historic character of the district;
Contracts for the stabilization of Old Main and the Ward Theater must be released before construction begins on the CLCs;
An Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Landscape Survey must be completed before building 37 is demolished; and
The VA will conduct quarterly consultation meetings with the PA consulting parties to continue to review the proposed construction and determine how best to create a master plan for the entire district.
As a result of the PA, the historic stained glass window that the Ward Memorial Theater has become known for was removed, cleaned and placed in protective storage by the VA, while next steps for stabilization efforts are determined.
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