Like the text of a book shoved right up in front of your eyes, The National Soldiers Home Historic District is so close it’s sometimes hard to see. But thanks to the hard work of some local preservation groups – with help at the national level – that’s changing.
So, there’s no better time to head out to what a lot of Milwaukeeans used to simply call "Wood, Wisconsin," for a tour of the grounds. Best of all, you can go anytime and the tour is free, if you have an Android or iPhone.
That’s because there’s a walking tour app – which just may be the first of its kind in the state – that you can download free and use as an audio tour and map to the sprawling 90-acre grounds.
Narrated by State Historic Preservation Officer Jim Draeger, the has an intro and outro and makes 25 stops in between, showcasing such area architectural treasures as Henry Koch’s hospital, chapel and Ward Theater and Edward Townsend Mix’s instantly recognizable Old Main.
Along the way you’ll also see lesser-known buildings like the Governor’s Building – the oldest surviving structure on the grounds – and the 1895 power house that is the next area of focus for the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance that has already been busy working to get the chapel, theater and Old Main sealed from the elements.
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