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Effort to 'Save the Soldiers Home' Takes Major Steps Forward

Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a developer to rehabilitate three notable vacant historic buildings in the Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District, located at the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The announcement comes on the heels of a major step forward for the ongoing effort to rehabilitate six of the District’s buildings, including Old Main.


The VA’s RFP, due January 7, 2019, seeks developers’ plans for rehabilitating and restoring:

  • The Chapel (Building 12): The Chapel was built in 1889 during the expansion period of the Soldiers Home. The wood-frame building was designed by prominent Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch using the popular shingle style variation of Queen Anne architecture. The chapel is approximately 5,610 square feet and sits on 1.38 acres of land.

  • The Governor’s Mansion (Building 39): The Governor’s Mansion was built in 1867-1868. It was designed by prominent Milwaukee architect Edward Townsend Mix and over the years has housed local VA Medical Center leadership. The Mansion is approximately 6,620 square feet with a total of four floors on 1.24 acres of land.

  • Ward Memorial Hall (Building 41): Ward Memorial Hall was built in 1881-82, also during the expansion period of the Soldiers Home. Prominent Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch designed Ward Memorial Hall with a theater/meeting room, store, restaurant, and railroad ticket office. This unusual combination of building uses was intended to address the growing recreational needs of the Soldiers Home. In 1898, the theater space was reconfigured to have a sloped floor, balcony, and boxes flanking the proscenium stage. The theater has approximately 10,700 total square feet on 0.65 acres of land.

“These are remarkable buildings,” said Peter Zanghi, President of the Board of Directors of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. “The opportunity to return them to the service of veterans has been a longtime goal of ours through the Save the Soldiers Home effort. This week, we took a major step toward making it happen.”

The new project is being offered through the VA’s Historic Reuse Program (HRP). Unlike the previous leasing authority (Enhanced Use Leasing), this program does not require that the buildings be used only for homeless veteran housing.

“Our priority is to find interested developers who share our commitment to ensuring veterans are served by these buildings,” said Zanghi.


This week’s RFP announcement comes on the heels of a major step forward for the current effort to rehabilitate six of the District’s buildings, including Old Main. In November, The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) signed the Enhanced Use Lease with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after receiving Congressional approval.

“This was a complex and critical process,” said Joe Alexander, President of The Alexander Company. “It’s just the latest step in our collective effort to welcome Veterans back into Old Main and other key buildings.”

The development team is on track for a spring start of construction. The fundraising effort for the $40 million project is in the home stretch, with just $650,000.00 remaining. To learn more about the effort and make a donation, visit

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