Pre-Encampment Tour

"Old Main" is the oldest building at the Milwaukee Soldier's Home.

Thursday evening, August 8, 2013, will feature a tour of the historic Milwaukee Soldier’s Home and adjacent Wood National Cemetery.

The establishment of a National Soldiers Homes system was one of the last pieces of legislation signed by President Lincoln prior to his assassination. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home, on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, is one of the most intact examples of these early soldiers homes.

Completed in 1869, the “Old Main” building, as nicknamed by veterans, was used as a veterans’ residence until the 1970s, while the Ward Memorial Hall, opened in 1881, was once a popular stop for vaudeville and minstrel shows. Built using GAR Post funds in 1894, the Wadsworth Library is still used today for its original purpose. The headquarters building is used today as the meeting site for C.K. Pier Badger Camp 1 and Auxiliary 4, and the 1889 Home Chapel is currently being restored by the Soldiers Home Foundation.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home campus is the only one of the three original sites to have its majestic Soldiers Home intact, and it is also the only one with the majority of its surrounding recuperative village remaining.

Soldiers Monument at Wood National Cemetery

Soldiers Monument at Wood National Cemetery

The Soldiers Home walls and grounds and memories depict the history not only of veteran care but also of nursing home and institutional care in America. The National Soldiers Home Historic District is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places and in 2011 was designated a National Landmark.

In all, the National Soldiers Home Historic District houses 25 post-Civil War and early 20th Century buildings as well as the oldest two-thirds of Wood National Cemetery and dozens of park-like acres.

Most prominent in the tranquil grounds is Wood National Cemetery, the final resting place of some 37,000. Since the first burial in 1871, the cemetery has become the final home for U.S. soldiers and veterans from the War of 1812 to Iraqi Freedom. Massive park grounds once filled the site and welcomed 300,000 visitors annually at the end of the 19th Century. Today, the sense of parkland remains strong, though only one of four original lakes still holds waterLake Wheeler.

Statue of "The Hiker" overlooks Ward Memorial Theater (at left). The tower of "old Main" rises above the trees in the background.

Statue of "The Hiker" overlooks Ward Memorial Theater (at left). The tower of "old Main" rises above the trees in the background.

Be sure to pre-register for this special evening tour. Limited space is available.