Page 5 - March-April 2012 | Columns Newsletter | Wisconsin Historical Society
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Historic Preservation

Milwaukee’s National Soldiers’ Home Named a
National Historic Landmark

National Historic Landmarks are our                  1883, and the addition of dining facilities to the  Old Main at Milwaukee’s National
country’s most exceptional historic properties.      barracks so that the residents would not have to    Soldiers’ Home
The Northwestern Branch, National Home for           travel as far for meals.
Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, commonly known                                                              The surgeons’ quarters
as Milwaukee’s National Soldiers’ Home, received        The campus design aided in the veterans’
this designation on June 17, 2011, becoming          recuperation and eased the transition back into     The chapel
the state’s 41st National Historic Landmark          society. The core contained elements of a village,
property. To learn more about National Historic      including a post office, library, recreation hall,
Landmarks, visit nps.gov/history/nhl.                theater, chapel and recreation areas.

   The Northwestern Branch (now the Clement             Beginning with the 1920s, the emphasis
J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center) was     was on hospital construction, including one
the second of the three original branches of the     for tuberculosis patients begun in 1922 and
National Asylum and the first National Home          a hospital annex constructed by the Veterans
branch that the Board of Managers had designed       Administration in the 1930s. After each major
and built. The board designated Milwaukee as         conflict, the VA added additional facilities,
the site of the Northwestern Branch in 1866,         including more storage and maintenance
and construction of the first buildings on the site  buildings required for the continued upkeep and
began in the fall of 1867.                           functioning of the facility.

   Thomas Budd Van Horne laid out the                   Today, the historic core of the nation’s best
original design of the Branch grounds and of the     remaining 19th-century Soldiers Home sits
associated Wood National Cemetery. Employing         vacant and neglected. The Wisconsin Historical
elements of the Picturesque style, he contrasted     Society has worked with local, state and national
wooded areas with curving paths and roads lined      partners to bring recognition and visibility to
with trees to create a scenic setting. Prominent     this nationally significant site. The Society has
Milwaukee architects, including Edward               supported the Northern Branch designation as
Townsend Mix and Henry C. Koch, designed             a National Historic Landmark, negotiated with
several of the early buildings.                      the Department of Veterans Affairs to repair
                                                     serious structural problems in the most historic
   During its first year, 212 veterans lived at the  buildings while providing new patient care
Northwestern Branch. By 1877 1,307 veterans          facilities. The Society has also worked with a
resided there. The growing number of aging           broad coalition of veterans, veterans advocates,
and infirm veterans resulted in more long-term       historic preservationists and interested people
members and in greater demands for care of           to begin developing a plan to reuse the vacant
elderly soldiers. Building design reflected the      structures and preserve a visible symbol of
changing population, with new buildings limited      America’s commitment to treating its wounded
to two stories, the addition of an elevator in       and injured veterans. •

Call for Ideas for Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month in May

Now is the time to begin thinking about planning events and activities to mark Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month in May. During this celebration,
communities throughout Wisconsin plan many local and regional events to promote historic and prehistoric places for the purposes of instilling community
pride, promoting heritage tourism, and showcasing the social and economic benefits of historic preservation. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to join in
the celebration.

Wisconsin’s Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month offers limitless possibilities to highlight local historic and archaeological landmarks. Activities and events
range from walking tours, a historic building open house and how-to workshops to fundraising kickoffs, historic marker dedications and op-ed pieces on historic
preservation in the local newspaper.

You may submit events for inclusion in the Society’s online Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month calendar at any time prior to the event. Submitting events
can be done easily at wisconsinhistory.org/hp/hpmonth or by contacting Joe DeRose at the Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street, Madison, WI 53706, by
phone at (608) 264-6504 or via e-mail at joe.derose@wisconsinhistory.org.

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