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Photo Essay: Inside the decay of Old Main before its restoration

“The Soldiers Home is critical to understanding Wisconsin’s important place at the beginning of veteran patient care. This project is about more than preserving the brick and mortar of buildings, it’s about renewing the legacy of these buildings and returning them to the veterans who they were uniquely designed to serve.”
– Jim Draeger, Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office

Alderman Michael J. Murphy, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and developer Kalan Haywood were among the coalition participants at a special press announcement on December 6, where the first part of a $600,000 grant was handed out for the restoration of the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. The funding will transform the dilapidated facility to provide affordable housing for veterans and their families, as well as for low-income families.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home contains some of the oldest buildings in the VA system, and the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape is still intact. Old Main is the only original Soldiers Home building in the country designed to combine multiple basic veteran care functions under one roof. Originally constructed in 1867, the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home is beloved by veterans who believe its recuperative powers should remain accessible to aging Vietnam vets and returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

“The Alexander Company is honored to be investing our time and talents in a project that will have a significant impact on our community, as we preserve these remarkable historic buildings, and do so for the veterans they were built to serve,” said Joe Alexander, President of the Alexander Company.

After the press conference, the Milwaukee Independent was invited to take a tour of Old Main, to photograph its current condition of decay. The structure has survived, in part, because there was not enough funding for previous VA administrations to demolish it. However, there was also no funds previously to restore the building. Old Main has been modernized over the 150 years, but many original aspects of it remain. The building was also the first structure in Wisconsin to have an elevator.

This photo essay presents a look at the deteriorated condition inside Old Main, before the renovation and remodeling efforts begin next year.

About The Author

Lee Matz

Former Creative Director and Photojournalist for the Milwaukee Business Journal, Lee brings his years of international experience as an award-winning foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his news reports.

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Original images published on this news platform are editorial content and the exclusive property of the Milwaukee Independent. All usage is forbidden.

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