MILWAUKEEWisconsin veterans, preservationists, politicians and concerned citizens are gathering at a 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, public hearing in the Matousek Auditorium at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Milwaukee. They are coming to discuss the fate of the history and legacy of one of the oldest veteran homes and hospitals in the United States. Hundredsincluding reenactors in uniformare expected to appear to express concerns about a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs proposal to lease 37 acres of the Milwaukee VA property, including historic buildings, to a commercial developer.

The VA's Enhanced-Use Lease proposal includes the possible commercial development of six 19th Century buildings on the grounds. Those historic landmarks include the soldiers' home/hospital, one of the original three such facilities in the United States, which President Abraham Lincoln established in 1865 at the request of Milwaukee Soldier's Aid Society advocate Ms. Cordelia Harvey, widow of Wisconsin Governor Lewis P. Harvey (who died on a Civil War soldier's aid mission). Also included for possible commercial development is Wisconsin's first multi-denominational chapel, built in 1889 in part from pension moneys donated by the veterans themselves in order to establish a place for Protestant, Catholic and Jewish worship. One of Wisconsin's first theaters, The Ward Theaterhighlighted by its large, veteran-donated stained glass window (installed in 1887) that depicts General Ulysses S. Grantis also on the list.

The history and sacrifice that surrounds these buildings is rich. The nearby cemetery is the final home of more than 33,000 Wisconsin war veterans, from the War of 1812 through modern-day conflicts. Seven Buffalo Soldiers and members of the 54th Infantry Division (the first African American division) are buried there.

We grassroots history advocates plan to present our vision for a broader use of the property and buildings centered on historic preservation, with the possible cooperation of an appropriate developer. We hope to restore and develop the VA grounds into an historical, educational and research-based, community-focused campus, whose buildings become museums and depositories filled with the memories and memorials of all wars' veterans. The mission will be to preserve America's veteran history and nourish America's patriotic soul, establishing in Milwaukee the anchor for America's heritage tourism. This mission fits hand-in-glove with President George W. Bush's 2003 Executive Order: Preserve America. Read more at 2003/03/20030304-9.html.

Achieving our goal begins with convincing the Department of Veterans Affairs Dec. 10 that the Wisconsin Soldier's Home makes a better legacy for future generations than it does a shopping center.

For more information, contact:
Attorney Todd Hunter

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