Milwaukee VAMC Commences Repairs on Historic Ward Memorial Theater

Jan. 30, 2013


Elizabeth Hummitzsch, Mueller Communications

Milwaukee VAMC Commences Repairs on Historic Ward Memorial Theater
Work begins on historic theater as crews complete initial repairs to “Old Main”

Milwaukee (January 30, 2013) – The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance announced today that the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center has commenced the stabilization of Ward Memorial Theater, in the National Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District. The work comes on the heels of completed roof stabilization work on a rear wing section of the District’s “Old Main” building.

The repairs have been a key focus of a broad group of community leaders that make up the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home Community Advisory Council. The group, formed after the District’s designation as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, has come together to advocate for the protection, repair and rehabilitation of the district’s vacant buildings and identify a vision for returning the buildings to the service of veterans.

“We applaud the VA for their work to get these repairs complete, prevent further damage and help lay the ground work for the future reuse of these historic buildings,” said Dawn McCarthy, president of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. “The VA successfully repaired Old Main’s roof collapse before the worst of the winter weather and is now focused on stabilizing the roof of another historical and architectural landmark, Ward Memorial Theater.”

Ward Memorial Theater was designed by Henry C. Koch and constructed in 1881. It was originally constructed as a two-story multi-purpose building that included a hall, restaurant, and train passenger waiting room. The hall was also used as a worship space until the construction of a freestanding chapel. In 1897, the building was remodeled for use solely as a theater and hosted many appearances by lecturers, vaudeville troupes, and musicians. Performers appearing elsewhere in Milwaukee often gave free shows at the Theater for the veterans’ benefit. As the motion picture industry developed, the theater acquired equipment to show movies.

Today, Ward Memorial Theater has experienced significant roof and water infiltration damage, leaving portions exposed to the elements. In November 2011, one of the theater’s most notable features, a stained glass window depicting a life sized figure of General Ulysses S. Grant mounted on a bay horse, was removed from the theater for safekeeping until repairs are complete.

Construction crews are at work to make the necessary repairs to prevent any further damage. The repairs will address issues with roof trusses to prevent a collapse and water infiltration issues. These repairs are expected to be complete within the year.

“The veteran community cherishes these buildings and what they represent,” said Howard Hinterthuer, Vietnam veteran and Communications Coordinator at the Center for Veterans Issues. “We know there is support for returning these buildings to the service of veterans and look forward to continuing to work together toward that goal.”

Similar repairs were recently made to the rear wing of the district’s largest building – “Old Main.” Crews repaired structural damage associated with the collapse of the building’s roof and reestablished the second floor truss structure.

“Stabilization of Old Main and the Ward Memorial Theater is a great victory,” said Genell Scheurell, senior field officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Chicago Field Office. “We can now be certain that these buildings will be safe from future damage as we work toward a long-term plan for their reuse.”

For more information about the Soldiers Home, visit
Or find us on Facebook:
Or Twitter:

About the Milwaukee VA National Soldiers Home Historic District
In 1865, Congress established the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) system to care for volunteer Union soldiers who had been disabled during service in the Civil War.

In 1866, the NHDVS Board of Managers decided to locate one of the first three Homes in Milwaukee. It was established on approximately 400 acres of land west of the city, purchased from several local citizens.

The Homes were to provide holistic care for veterans – access to health care, safe living accommodations, vocational training, rehabilitation, and recreation. They were designed to be highly visible, reminding citizens of the federal government’s support of veterans and helping to forge a stronger link between the public and the federal government.

Since 1867, the Northwestern Branch of the NHDVS, popularly known as the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, has provided care to veterans from across the country. Today the National Historic Landmark district, located on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, is the only one of the original three branches to have retained most of its original buildings.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.

Community Watch

» Anodyne Coffee plans to open location in Wauwatosa Village Updated:  7/29

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Menomonee Falls baseball virtuoso Ty Weber and Big Ten Media Day Updated:  7/29

» Wauwatosa West girls basketball coach Ashley Imperiale resigns 7/26

» Store owners, police weigh in on string of protests at Mayfair mall Updated:  7/26

» Tosa police will not release squad video of officer-involved shooting Updated:  7/25

» Wauwatosa school district files lawsuit against WIAA over conference realignment Updated:  7/25

» Protest over fatal shooting forces brief closure of Mayfair Mall 7/23

» Reports into fatal Wauwatosa police shooting delivered to DA 7/22

» Social media story on the storms rolling through Milwaukee area 7/21

» Business Spotlight: Cranky Al's has grown from desperation to a Wauwatosa institution Updated:  7/20

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Wisconsin Badgers football, WIFCA All-Star game 7/20

» Michaelis leads Wauwatosa East past rival West in regional 7/20

» Milwaukee County Chargers earn overtime win over Muskego 7/20

» Activists push DA for disclosure on police killing in Wauwatosa 7/19

» Video: How a Pokémon Go newbie experienced the craze playing in Wauwatosa Updated:  7/19

» Tosa police, firefighters celebrated during First Responders Fest 7/18

» Ray's Wine & Spirits in Tosa celebrates 55 years with public party 7/15

» Wauwatosa's Relay for Life event slated for July 22 7/14

» Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley receives award for business leadership 7/14

» Video: Mayfair Collection's Bartolotta restaurants billed as 'triple threat' Updated:  7/14

» Bus rapid transit route clears two hurdles 7/13

» A look at the French restaurant Cafe Grace, opening Tuesday in Wauwatosa 7/13

» Wauwatosa West baseball team drops four of last five games 7/12

» Wauwatosa East baseball team falls to Marquette in Greater Metro semifinals 7/12

» Coalition for Justice, Black Lives Matter protest in Milwaukee, Tosa Updated:  7/12

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss

Best Summer Ever


We've made it easy for you to get out and go this summer. From hitting the trails for a bike ride or walk, to where to find beer gardens in the area, to the best places to swim in Waukesha County to the best summer drinks and summer reads, check out our 2016 summer guide.



Hidden Tosa


"Hidden Tosa" is a semi-regular feature where our Wauwatosa reporter explores the closed down and closed off parts of Wauwatosa.