Though the District's buildings are remarkable, the way the landscape was designed is an equally important part of the Soldiers Home. Well-known landscape architect Thomas Budd Van Horne designed the ground using the principles of the Picturesque Movement, made very popular in the mid-1800s. The curving roads were meant to link a series of scenic views that would appeal to the veteran residents and serve as Milwaukee’s first major public park.
For many years, the Soldiers Home served as a weekend getaway for visitors from throughout the region who came to enjoy the beautiful pathways, expansive open lawns and sparkling lakes.
There have been many changes to the district’s landscape over the years. The gatehouses are now gone, three of the original lakes have been filled in, and the fourth, Lake Wheeler, was reoriented in 1966 to make room for the medical center’s main hospital. Additionally, the loss of land on the east edge of the property to Miller Park has removed some of the original landscape and interrupted the view to the east. However, the landscape and road/path system in the historic core still reflect the objectives of the NHDVS Board of Managers – to provide members with beautiful surroundings.