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As you may know, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is the custodian for many historic resources across the nation, including those at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. This week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report, Honoring Our Veterans: Saving Their Places of Health Care and Healing, that explores the Department of Veterans Affairs’ cultural resource stewardship, identifies deficiencies and best practices, and highlights the work the National Trust and others have been doing at Milwaukee Soldiers Home to save this National Treasure. We hope this report will help to change policies at the VA that are preventing historic VA properties from being saved or reused.
While the report recommended a number of areas of improvement, one thing was abundantly clear: the Milwaukee VA Medical Center stands apart from its peers. Today, the Milwaukee VA serves as an excellent example of how open dialogue between key stakeholders can create mutually beneficial solutions.
Though we are not yet at the finish line for the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, we have come a long way and made significant progress. We are fortunate to have a positive working relationship with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center and appreciate the VA’s willingness to engage with us on finding the best solutions for its vacant buildings. It is our hope that other VAs around the nation can look to Milwaukee as an example of how the VA can work with preservationists to advance solutions for veterans and preserve some of the most important buildings in our history.
By Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer, Chicago Field Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation
There’s exciting news coming from Milwaukee! For the first time, the two-day Doors Open Milwaukee event, that takes place on September 21-22, 2013, is going to include guided tours of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Landmark Historic District. Two in-depth guided tours of the grounds and exteriors of the buildings (2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.) will be offered by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance on September 21st only.
These two special tours are one of the Doors Open Public Tours which means tickets will be requried for each of the two tours. Tickets are given out FREE TO THE PUBLIC on a first-come, first-served basis and will be distributed at City Hall at 10am on the morning of the tour.
Day/Time: Sat, Sept. 21st, 2pm and 4pm
Meet: 5000 W. National Ave, at the fountain in front of Old Main.
For more information, click here.
If you are unable to join this guided tour but would still like to see the Soldiers Home, a downloadable a self-guided walking tour is available at:
Smartphone Users: The app is available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. To download the app, visit the App Store on your mobile device and search Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Users should fully download the app prior to taking the tour.
MP3 Player Users: The walking tour audio files are also available for download and use on MP3 players. To download the file for use on an MP3 player, click here.
A Companion Map to the walking tour, complete with stops and building names is available for download at http://goo.gl/H9NrA.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance invite you to bring your friends, family and colleagues to celebrate the Milwaukee Soldiers Home’s recent successes at a tailgate at Miller Park prior to the Brewers vs. Cardinals game on Monday, August 19.
Click here for more information and to purchase your tickets.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance recently announced the launch of a free walking tour Smartphone app and MP3 download complete with historical photos, audio narration and key historical facts about Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. It is believed to be the first such walking tour app in Wisconsin.
The walking tour app, narrated by State Historic Preservation Officer, Jim Draeger, is currently available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. The tour is also available via MP3 download. For more information on the tour and to download a corresponding map of the district, please visit SavetheSoldiersHome.com.
“Though the Milwaukee Soldiers Home has been around for more than a century, there are still many people in the area that have never walked the grounds,” said Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We hope the walking tour encourages more people to visit the grounds and learn about some of Milwaukee’s oldest and most significant historic buildings, as well as the veterans that were and continue to be served there.”
Opened in 1867, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is one of three original Soldiers Home in the country and is the only one that retains the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape. The grounds sit on 90-plus acres of land just west of Miller Park. The site includes a post office, library, recreation hall, theater, chapel, lake, multiple recreational areas, as well as Old Main, the original domiciliary. All of these buildings, plus many more, are featured on the walking tour.
The launch of the walking tour is the latest, in a series of accomplishments made at the Soldiers Home. In July 2011, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Later that year, the Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 2012, the District was named one of the National Trust’s National Treasures. Also in 2012, the VA commenced repairs to stabilize the roof on the rear wing of Old Main, which collapsed in February 2010. These initial repairs were completed earlier this year. Repairs have also been completed on the roof truss and roof of the Ward Memorial Theater.
“The walking tour is an excellent way for community organizations, business groups, school classrooms and interested community members to learn more about an important piece of Milwaukee’s history,” said Dawn McCarthy, President of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. “The app is a great way to use modern technology to explore some of our region’s, and arguably the entire nation’s, most notable history.”
For more information on the app, click here.
Please join us for the
National Historic Landmark Plaque Dedication
An event hosted by the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, to unveil the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District plaque.
With support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance & the National Park Service.
Friday, April 26, at 11:00 am
Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home
National Historic Landmark District
(across from Old Main, Building 2)
Please RSVP to Matthew Cryer at Matthew.Cryer@va.gov