Summer Marks Start of Construction on Soldiers Home Grounds

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA) announced today that the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center will commence repairs to several historic buildings on the grounds of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Historic District (Soldiers Home), a National Historic Landmark.

“We are excited about the work being done on many of the District’s buildings,” said Dawn McCarthy, President of the MPA Board of Directors. “Visitors will see a noticeable difference in the appearance of some of these historic buildings.”

This summer, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center (VAMC) will commence work on theWard Theater (Building 41), the Old Hospital Building (Building 6) and the Barracks Buildings (Buildings 5 and 7).

Originally built in 1881, Ward Memorial Hall was converted to a theater in 1895-97. Many popular artists visiting Milwaukee performed for the veterans at the Ward Theater, including Bob Hope and Liberace. The Ward Theater, which is currently vacant, will be reroofed and undergo exterior masonry and porch repairs.

Designed in 1879, the Old Hospital Building once served as the primary space for medical care on the grounds. After hospital care moved to Building 70 at the south end of the grounds, the Old Hospital was converted to a barracks. Today, the building houses a number of VA offices.

The Old Hospital will be completely re-roofed, with wood re-painted and windows and doors repaired. Additionally, the building’s chimney will be re-constructed and wrought iron decorative cresting will be newly fabricated or repaired.

The Barracks Buildings will undergo repointing, scraping and painting. Additionally, the buildings’ gutters and downspouts will be fixed and shingles will be replaced where needed. The porches will also undergo repairs and be painted. Formerly used as housing for veterans, the buildings currently provide office space for the VA.

“These repairs are much needed improvements in the District and demonstrate important progress,” said Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We also look forward to continuing to work with the VA to address the critical need for a long-term solution that will return the District’s vacant buildings to the service of veterans.”

Three of the District’s most notable buildings, Old Main (Building Two), Power Plant(Building 45) and the Soldiers Home Chapel (Building 12) remain vacant and are in urgent need of funding for significant repairs.

Though Old Main’s major roof collapse was repaired in 2012, additional holes in the roof remain and continue to expose the building to the elements. Unfortunately, funding has not been identified to repair these holes and prevent future damage to the building.

“Over the past few years, the VA has made great strides toward making changes that will positively impact the future of the Soldiers Home District,” said Scheurell. “However, the sense of urgency remains. The VA must receive the necessary funding to protect this National Historic Landmark District.”

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