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Soldiers Home Becomes National Historic Landmark

The National Park Service honors the Soldiers Home complex, whose classic buildings are the oldest in the nation still standing from Civil War days.

By - Apr 29th, 2013 10:02 am

On Friday, a celebration was held at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center announcing the designation of the Soldiers Home complex of buildings as a National Historic Landmark. Held in front of the iconic Old Main building, the well-attended event was centered around the unveiling of a plaque from the National Park Service honoring the Soldiers Home complex.

Soldiers Home opened in 1867. The National Historic Landmark status applies to a district of 41 buildings constructed in the late 1800’s through 1930s. Thirty-four of those buildings are still in use.

The event marked a major milestone in the ongoing effort by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and other groups to preserve and restore these classic buildings. In 2012, repairs were made to stabilize Old Main, which had suffered a partial roof collapse in 2010. Today repairs are underway on Ward Memorial Hall, the grand theater at the complex. The hope is to restore Old Main, Ward Memorial Hall, and the chapel so they can be put back into service helping veterans.

If you’ve never been to the grounds, a great way to experience them (and the surrounding area) is by bicycle. The recently extended Hank Aaron State Trail goes through the grounds on its way from the Menomonee Valley to its western terminus at 94th Place.

“We are deeply honored to be given national historic landmark status, which underscores how important these buildings are to the community, and our ongoing commitment to veterans of all eras,” said Robert Beller, medical center director. “We continue to honor President Lincoln’s vision by being good stewards of our history, while making sure we provide world-class health care to our veterans. Nothing is more important to us than our sacred bond to take care of veterans. We do this every day, whether it is in primary care, mental health, our older veterans in the Community Living Center, or routine appointments. We are grateful for the trust given us by veterans, and we continue to work to earn that trust every day.”

The plaque reads “This site possesses national significance as an outstanding representation of the development of a national system of medical and residential benefits for disabled volunteer veterans. Established in 1866 and opened in 1867, the Northwestern Branch was one of the three original NHDVS facilities. It retains the oldest buildings in the system and a largely intact designed landscape.” The official name is National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Northwestern Branch.

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