Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Study Underway To Save More of Soldiers Home

Milwaukee Preservation Alliance wins grant to study viability of saving three more buildings.

By - Dec 25th, 2020 08:23 am
Ward Memorial Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ward Memorial Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The signature building at Soldiers Home, Old Main, will see new life in early 2021 as a home for homeless veterans. But some of the other notable buildings in the 90-acre complex, built following the Civil War, faces an uncertain future.

Located at 5000 W. National Ave. near Miller Park, Soldiers Home has been the subject of a large-scale preservation effort led by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and National Trust for Historic Preservation. But a late 2018 request for proposals to redevelop three long-vacant buildings, Ward Memorial Hall, the Governor’s Mansion and the Chapel, didn’t find any qualified bidders.

MPA secured a $5,000 matching grant this fall from the National Trust to study the buildings. A team led by architecture firm Miller Dunwiddie with support from Allume Architects, Alexander Company, J.P. Cullen and Nissley Environmental Consultants, will study the viability of redeveloping the buildings and potential funding sources.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs owns the complex, with the modern Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center fronting W. National Ave. The VA still uses some of the Soldiers Home buildings, including one with a bowling alley.

Jeremy Ebersole, MPA Executive Director, said the overarching goal of the study is to build on the vision that Soldiers Home is worth saving and that there are viable ways to do so. The hope is for the VA to issue a new RFP based on information from the study.

While that study gets started, construction work continues on redeveloping six buildings, Old Main, an administration building and four homes.

Alexander showed off its $44 million redevelopment in late October. When Alexander finishes its work, the four-story Old Main, vacant since 1989, will be home to 80 apartments, all but 10 of which have one bedroom. The units will be solely for veterans that were homeless or at-risk for homelessness.

The rehabilitated buildings will be managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. A total of 25,000 square feet of space is being set aside within Old Main for wraparound services.

The administration building, once the headquarters for the Civil War-era campus, served as the post office in addition to the housing quarters for the administrators. Now it will hold 14 apartments and a dining room. The former post office room will serve as the dining room, with the development team restoring the teller window and mailbox system, the latter of which involved recasting some of the dozens of boxes.

The redevelopment will provide housing for 101 veterans.

For those interested in learning more about the complex, MPA launched an at-home learning resource in May. The grounds are also public and a Soldiers Home smartphone application exists to aid your exploration.

For more on the three study buildings, see our coverage from 2018.

Ward Memorial Hall

Chapel

Governor’s Mansion

Video Tours

Old Main Exterior

Old Main Interior

Administration Building

May Exterior Photos

Pre-Redevelopment

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