The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is a 90-acre National Historic Landmark District containing over 20 buildings and structures, many of which are among the oldest in the entire VA system.
Soldiers Home District: The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established by Congress in 1865 in order to care for wounded veterans returning from the Civil War. Following a $100,000 fundraising campaign led by a local group of women in the summer of 1865, Milwaukee was selected as one of the original three Soldiers Homes, serving as the Northwest Branch. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home is now a 90-acre National Historic Landmark District containing over 20 buildings and structures, many of which are among the oldest in the entire VA system. Milwaukee Preservation Alliance spearheaded, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a new effort to save the Soldiers Home back in 2010 when four iconic buildings were vacant and endangered. As a result of this effort, and with the support of the community, a project is now underway tol rehab and convert Old Main and five other buildings, to 101 units of housing for homeless veterans. The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance continues to work with the VA and other partners to identify the best path forward to restore and repurpose the Chapel and the Ward Memorial Hall and return them to the service of veterans.
Old Main: Old Main is a five-story Victorian Gothic style building and is the most prominent on campus. Designed by noted local architect Edward Townsend Mix, it opened in 1869 and housed veterans for 120 years, but has been mostly vacant for the past three decades. When its rehabilitation is complete, it will house 80 units of veteran housing, including 11 units designated for women veterans which will be located in a separate and secure area of the building.
Chapel: The Soldiers Home Chapel is a multi-denominational church built in 1889 and designed by famed Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch. The wood-frame building was built in the shape of a cross and displays some Queen Anne style architectural features such as patterned wood shingles shaped into varying designs. It was paid for with “Post Funds,” which included profits from the operation of the Soldiers Home store, gifts, bequests, and unpaid pensions of members who died without wills or heirs. The chapel remained in use until 1996. All religious services are now held in the Main Hospital Chapel. Theater: Ward Memorial Hall was constructed in 1881 and named for Horatio Ward, an American banker who created an endowment fund to construct memorial halls for the Soldiers Homes. The intent was to provide the Home’s members with cultural activities such as concerts, theatrical performances, and lectures and allow them to socialize, relax and enjoy recreation time with one another. This two-and-a-half story building is constructed of Cream City brick and was also designed by Henry Koch. The hall was designed in the Romanesque style, which is characterized by round arches and symmetrical windows. It was originally a multi-purpose building with a flat-floored hall, serving as a theater, amusement hall, restaurant, home store, post office, and place of worship.