The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA) launched an at-home learning resource focused on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home on May 14.

Teachers, parents, and students are encouraged to learn about Milwaukee’s historic and future role in providing care to our nation’s heroes.

The online resource is the latest in MPA’s more than decade-long commitment to building awareness of and engagement with the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, to drive its ultimate goal of returning the District’s vacant buildings to the service of veterans.

“As COVID-19 has taken education online, we wanted to be sure students had the opportunity to explore Milwaukee’s often untold history,” said Dawn McCarthy, President Emeritus of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. “We have this rich history right here in our backyard, and now is a great time to explore it.”

The digital education collection highlights the legacy of the Soldiers Home, the critical role that women of Milwaukee played in its founding, the unique background of its buildings, and the current rehabilitation project as housing for veterans. Along with historical photos, there is extensive drone footage that shows the grounds from unique perspectives.

The Milwaukee Soldiers Home Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is tucked just behind Miller Park. It was built in 1867 as a place of healing for veterans returning from the Civil War.

In recent years, some of the District’s buildings have fallen into disrepair. Thanks in large part to the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance’s advocacy efforts to raise awareness and appreciation of the historic district, six historic buildings are currently being restored and put back into the service of veterans.

The development project, led by The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, will rehabilitate six of the District’s buildings – including the iconic Old Main – into 101 supportive housing units for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Workers on site discover etchings in the main tower of Old Main on May 22, with an incredible history behind them. Peter Schumacher – an apprentice with JP Cullen, was taking measurements and inspecting the historic windows when he noticed several carvings in the wood siding of an area with limited accessibility.

The etchings read “Chas. H. Lass 107 Eng 32 Div, 1917-1919” and were dated May 26, 1924. Research determined that the engraving was made by a WWI veteran with the 32nd division, which later became known as the Red Arrow Division, comprised of men from Wisconsin and Michigan.

“I was shocked, and it really hit home to find this right before Memorial Day almost 100 years after it was carved into the tower,” said Luke Mikula, a site engineer also with JP Cullen. “It’s a reminder of why we’re doing this and who we’re doing it for.”

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Lee Matz and JP Cullen

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