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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Summer 2005 arrow Kansas: Rehabilitation of the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center, Leavenworth
Closed Case:
Kansas: Rehabilitation of the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center, Leavenworth

Agency: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

In this case, the Department of Veterans Affairs planned to destroy 38 buildings in the Disabled Volunteer Soldier Historic District in Leavenworth, Kansas, to expand an adjacent National Cemetery.

The National Register-listed historic district was the 1844 site of the Stockbridge Baptist Mission and an Indian cemetery. Many of the district’s structures were built by a contractor noted for projects at the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, the Santa Fe Railroad, and the famed Fred Harvey railroad-associated restaurants.

Through the Section 106 review process, an alternate solution was reached that both spares the historic buildings while returning them to productive use, and allows expansion of the cemetery elsewhere in the immediate vicinity.

Ward Memorial Building, Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Leavenworth, Kansas
Ward Memorial Building, Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Leavenworth, Kansas

In 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed that it would demolish 38 underused or vacant historic buildings at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center to expand an adjacent National Cemetery.

Formerly known as the Western Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, the facility was constructed between 1865 and 1930 and was one of the earliest facilities for disabled soldiers following the Civil War.

The National Register-listed historic district, which remains largely intact, includes the Ward Memorial Building—particularly significant for its Queen Anne-style architecture and large stained glass window dedicated to President Lincoln.

The historic district also features a variety of building types, including four large brick barracks buildings, several large wood residences that originally served as staff housing for the doctors, an auditorium, power plant, mess hall, and office buildings.

The contractor for many of the early structures was James A. McGonigle, a prominent local builder also noted for projects at the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, the Santa Fe Railroad, and the famed Fred Harvey railroad-associated restaurants.

This case pitted local preservationists against veterans who supported expanding the cemetery and were concerned that the proposed project would diminish patient care and veterans’ benefits.

In 2000, VA held a number of public meetings under the Section 106 process to review alternatives to demolishing the historic buildings. The next year, VA proposed that the buildings be retained and rehabilitated with private funds through its Enhanced Use Lease Program.

From 2004 to 2005, the ACHP worked with VA on a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the treatment of the historic properties. VA has identified a private developer that plans to rehabilitate the historic buildings according to the Secretary of the Interior’s standards and to apply for rehabilitation tax credit.

The developer has identified reuses that will complement the medical center, such as transitional and senior housing.

The MOA describes the review process that the developer will follow to develop plans for the historic buildings’ rehabilitation, and provides for recording.

The agreement was signed by representatives of the VA, ACHP, Kansas State Historic Preservation Office, Eisenhower Ridge Association, Kansas Preservation Alliance, Preservation Alliance of Leavenworth, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which had listed the Disabled Volunteer Soldier Historic District in its “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 2000" annual list.

About nine acres of land in the historic district will be part of the expanded cemetery, but the expansion will not affect the 38 structures that contribute to the National Register historic district. Other adjacent land that is not part of the historic district also will be used for the remaining cemetery expansion.

In addition, the Ward Memorial Building’s stained glass window dedicated to President Lincoln, which was removed when the building was first proposed for demolition in the late 1980s, will be reinstalled under the MOA.

This case was one of VA’s first uses of its Enhanced Use Lease program for historic properties. The number of properties covered by this transaction makes this project particularly significant. The project can serve for other Federal agencies as a model alternative to demolishing historic properties.

Staff contact: Lee Keatinge

Updated August 31, 2005

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