MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN—Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Chairman Aimee Jorjani today announced the Soldiers Home Project at the National Historic Landmark Milwaukee VA Medical Center campus in Milwaukee, WI, has been awarded a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service.
“The awarding of this grant acknowledges this project’s vital importance to the community, since Save America’s Treasures grants are reserved only for the preservation of sites deemed ‘nationally significant,’ and that have been designated a National Historic Landmark and/or listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” Chairman Jorjani said. “The National Park Service recognizes that the Soldiers Home is worthy of being preserved and put back into use to serve our veterans.”
Chairman Jorjani spoke during the groundbreaking for the Soldiers Home project, which involves the adaptive reuse of six historic buildings on the campus into 101 housing units for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.
“There is no question about the need for veterans housing, and this project, which preserves six buildings that are part of the medical center campus, has garnered incredible community support,” Chairman Jorjani said. “This success is due to the collaboration between the ACHP, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Milwaukee VA Medical Center, and so many others. VA’s leadership and vision are setting the example for others all across the nation that we can take vacant and underutilized historic buildings and give them new life in an efficient and creative way.”
Established in 1867, the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home is one of the three original Soldiers Homes in the country, established by legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln to care for volunteer Union soldiers disabled during the Civil War. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.
The ACHP became involved with the Soldiers Home project when an earlier project for the construction of a new community living center triggered the Section 106 review process through the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), a federal review process overseen by the ACHP. The NHPA requires federal agencies to consider historic resources before undertaking a project.
The Section 106 process brought together VA, the Medical Center, the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office, National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission, Milwaukee Historical Society, and a number of local veterans groups. The open consultation process led to a larger discussion on the long-term maintenance and preservation of the campus, and it was determined the historic buildings could be reused through the VA Enhanced Use Lease Program.
A developer was sought, and the Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee stepped up to the challenge. The renovations to the buildings are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
“The ACHP is committed to ensuring that we find fast, efficient, and effective ways for all federal agencies to move through the Section 106 process,” Chairman Jorjani said. “This case is now one of the ACHP’s 106 Section 106 Success Stories.”
The ACHP is an independent federal agency that promotes the economic, educational, environmental, sustainability, and cultural values of historic preservation and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. It also influences federal activities, programs, and policies that affect historic and cultural properties. See www.achp.gov for more information.