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Saving a National Historic Treasure

Sean Cullen

There are those rare projects that deeply touch our souls personally.  I couldn’t be more honored than to have JP Cullen be responsible for the care, restoration, and re-birth of homes for our veterans.  While regrettably I never personally served, we are a military family.  My father and his twin brother both were US Navy sailors.  My father-in-law was a Navy ROTC officer, graduating from Marquette, and my sister-in-law is also a Navy vet.  My wife, Sue, and I have two children currently serving as military officers – Ben, a 1st Lt. leading a mortar platoon of Marines and Rachel, currently a 2nd Lt. in helicopter flight school to lead rescue missions for the Air Force.

I know the kind of quality work that we do here at JP Cullen.  I have seen our professionals fix the smallest scuffs because of their passion for the work that we do.  What better way to honor our veterans than to put our expertise, care, and hearts into homes for the men and women that have served in our military.  I am so proud to know that our team will give our veterans their very best and certainly these men and women deserve nothing less.

Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home– History

“Let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,” spoken by President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural speech in 1865.  Around the time of President Lincoln’s powerful message, he signed legislation establishing the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, creating a national system of care for disabled veterans.

Even before the passage of this legislation, in 1864, there was a local Milwaukee group of women, West Side Soldiers Aid Society, who felt there was a need to provide care for disabled soldiers after the number of casualties continued to skyrocket from the Civil War. This amazing group of women established a temporary home downtown Milwaukee for these soldiers and raised $100,000, an astounding amount of money in the 1860’s.  In addition to the funds raised, the women provided 21,550 Union Soldiers with 150,167 free meals and more than 1,000 medical treatments. These high numbers demonstrated the need for a permanent facility.

In 1897, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home opened on a 90-plus acre district, making it one of the three original soldier homes in the entire country.  The 90-plus acre district is a collection of 25 historic buildings on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Administration Medical Center. By 1895, Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home had 2,421 residents.

Restoration Project

Over the years, these buildings were abandoned and have aged.  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2011 and was added to the National Trust Most Endangered Historic Places. This gave it the attention it needed to kick-start the restoration.

As part of an Enhanced Use Lease Agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee are leading the effort to restore and rehabilitate six buildings on the Civil War-era Milwaukee property into an estimated 100 housing units for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The $40 million project will protect historic architecture and bring back to life these buildings that were places of refuge and healing for so many. We are so excited and honored to be a part of this project that will bring accessibility of these beautiful and powerful buildings to vets and soldiers in need.

Find out updates on this project here!


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May 16, 2024