Past: The birthplace of federal veteran care in America.
Established by Congress in 1865 and developed as a network of eleven branches across the country, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) established a policy of veteran’s benefits that directly influenced the development of a national system for veteran’s health care in the United States. The NHDVS was a notable departure from the previous focus on care for professional soldiers and officially set forth the concern and commitment of the federal government for the well-being of the civilian soldier. The architecture and landscape architecture of the NHDVS branches reflects development of the institution, and the goal of providing residences and care to war veterans. The highly visible NHDVS branches reminded citizens of the federal government’s support of veterans and helped forge a link between the public and the government. In 1930, the NHDVS was absorbed into the newly created Veterans Administration.*
For a comprehensive resource on the Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home Historic District, please visit the National Soldiers Home Historic District webpage, hosted by the West Side Soldiers Aid Society on behalf of the VA Medical Center.
*Source: Suzanne Julin, author of National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers: Assessment of Significance and National Historic Landmark Recommendation
Present: A national treasure on the verge of destruction.
- Three of the District’s most remarkable historic buildings are currently unusable from lack of proper upkeep and preservation.
- The District’s most historically significant and architecturally dominant building – the Soldiers Home itself or “Old Main” – is in urgent need of repair. This winter a roof truss collapsed under the weight of snow and the gaping hole remains unrepaired.
- Similarly, the Soldiers Home Chapel, a place of prayer, refuge and celebration through the early 1990s is unused due to a dire need for restoration.
- Also, the Ward Memorial Hall, once the area’s greatest theatre and entertainment venue attracting the nation’s top performers is exposed to the elements and deteriorating, and another roof collapse may be imminent.
Future: Threatened, without immediate action.
- We need immediate action to protect, repair, and restore this great historical asset.
- With wise stewardship, the Soldiers Home District can be a place of enhanced services to veterans, a national tourist destination commemorating the Civil War and honoring the sacrifice of veterans of all wars, and a recreational amenity for Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
- We are hopeful that our call to action will motivate this community and the VA to take steps to restore this national treasure and put it back into the service of our veterans.