Free Milwaukee Soldiers Home Walking Tour App Launches This Week

July 23, 2013

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance recently announced the launch of a free walking tour Smartphone app and MP3 download complete with historical photos, audio narration and key historical facts about Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. It is believed to be the first such walking tour app in Wisconsin.

The walking tour app, narrated by State Historic Preservation Officer, Jim Draeger, is currently available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. The tour is also available via MP3 download. For more information on the tour and to download a corresponding map of the district, please visit

“Though the Milwaukee Soldiers Home has been around for more than a century, there are still many people in the area that have never walked the grounds,” said Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We hope the walking tour encourages more people to visit the grounds and learn about some of Milwaukee’s oldest and most significant historic buildings, as well as the veterans that were and continue to be served there.”

Opened in 1867, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is one of three original Soldiers Home in the country and is the only one that retains the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape. The grounds sit on 90-plus acres of land just west of Miller Park. The site includes a post office, library, recreation hall, theater, chapel, lake, multiple recreational areas, as well as Old Main, the original domiciliary. All of these buildings, plus many more, are featured on the walking tour.

The launch of the walking tour is the latest, in a series of accomplishments made at the Soldiers Home. In July 2011, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Later that year, the Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 2012, the District was named one of the National Trust’s National Treasures. Also in 2012, the VA commenced repairs to stabilize the roof on the rear wing of Old Main, which collapsed in February 2010. These initial repairs were completed earlier this year. Repairs have also been completed on the roof truss and roof of the Ward Memorial Theater.

“The walking tour is an excellent way for community organizations, business groups, school classrooms and interested community members to learn more about an important piece of Milwaukee’s history,” said Dawn McCarthy, President of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. “The app is a great way to use modern technology to explore some of our region’s, and arguably the entire nation’s, most notable history.”

For more information on the app and other initiatives regarding the Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home, please visit

How to Download the Walking Tour:
• Smartphone Users: The app is available for free download on iTunes for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. To download the app, visit the store on your mobile device and search Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Users should fully download the app prior to taking the tour.

• MP3 Player Users: The walking tour audio files are also available for download and use on MP3 players. To download the file for use on an MP3 player, click here -

To download a map that corresponds with the tour, click here -

For more information about the Soldiers Home, visit:
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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

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.

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