Milwaukee VAMC Commences Repairs on Historic
"Soldiers Home" Building
Construction crews begin work to save one of America's most endangered historic places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance recently announced that the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center has commenced the stabilization of one of the most remarkable historical buildings in Milwaukee - the main building, also known as Old Main, in the National Soldiers Home Historic District.
"This is an exciting step toward saving the Soldiers Home," said Dawn McCarthy, President of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. "We are encouraged by the VA's commitment to stabilize one of our community's most important historical and architectural landmarks."
The Gothic Revival-style main building is the most striking aspect of the original campus of the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS). Constructed by Edward Townsend Mix in 1869, it was the campus' largest and most important building and contained facilities for the various functions of the Home including administrative offices, barracks, medical services, kitchen and dining room, chapel and meeting rooms, and laundry and bath rooms.
Today, the grand structure continues to dominate the landscape, but is in dire need of repair. In winter 2010, a roof collapsed under the weight of snow, creating a gaping hole that remained unrepaired and open to the elements for nearly two years. Thankfully, work has begun to repair the roof and protect the building from further damage.
Construction crews and equipment arrived onsite last week to begin the repairs. They expect to complete the roof repairs before the upcoming winter season to prevent any further damage. In addition to the roof repair, crews will be repairing the structural damage associated with the collapse and reestablishing the second floor truss structure.
"This is the first of many steps to get these buildings back into the service of veterans," said Ralph Bagneski, Vietnam Veteran and chairman of Milwaukee Allied Veterans Council/Allied Veterans Council of Milwaukee. "I'm proud to be a part of the effort to save these buildings and honor our veterans."
In addition to stabilizing Old Main, the VA has committed to similar stabilization work for the District's Ward Memorial Theater, where work is needed to repair roof trusses before a similar collapse occurs, and to address water infiltration issues. Work on the theater is scheduled to begin in November.
"We are proud of how the local community has rallied to save the Milwaukee Soldiers Home's most threatened buildings," said Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Chicago Field Office. "We applaud the Milwaukee VAMC for their commitment to stabilizing Old Main and the Ward Memorial Theater and look forward to continuing our work to create a vision for the District's future."
For more information about the Soldiers Home, visit: http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/milwaukee-soldiers-home