In 2016, the Milwaukee Veterans Administration announced that Edward Townsend Mix's iconic Old Main at the Old Soldiers Home on the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center grounds, just south of the stadium would be converted into veterans housing in collaboration with developers the Alexander Company.
The following year, we went inside for a peek before work began and shot a video that you can see here.
Eighty apartments are planned for the structure, with its instantly recognizable tower, built in 1869. Another 14 single-room occupancy units will be created in the nearby Administration Building (which once served as a train station and post office) and four duplexes (including the former Catholic chaplain's quarters) on the grounds will also be restored for use as veterans housing.
That's a total of 101 housing units, plus community space and onsite support services for veterans.
There will be space for singles, couples and families. Old Main will also have a women's wing for residents who prefer that option.
Now, this week, as work continues on the $44 million projects that has also included the participation of Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Center for Veterans Issues, Uihlein Wilson Architects and Quorum Architects, we went back inside for another look.
Work began on the project in 2019 and is expected to be ready by February 2021.
That work has included refurbishing 554 windows of all sizes, hiring artisans to recreate damaged pressed tin ceilings and ordering specialty roof slate from a Vermont quarry.
Fortunately, says Alexander Company's Jon Beck, the coronavirus shutdown has not derailed the project. But, he says, that with the pandemic came new conditions regarding bank loans that could've posed problems.
"If COVID had come six months earlier this thing would’ve been a disaster," he says.
Plans for the nearby Governor's Mansion and chapel – designed by architect Henry C. Koch – are still in process. Last year, an RFP was issued for these structures, but work has not yet begun.
The day we visited, workers were painting, installing kitchen cabinets and, in the women's wing, still framing out units, among countless other tasks, but the project is clearly taking shape and the units will have some great features.
Some of the third floor kitchens offer great views from stunning bays of tall, slender windows. Many apartments still have the 1867 wainscoting inside and the extremely tall entry doors with transom lights at the top.
Here's what we saw when we went inside:
Communal spaces that look like this
Kitchens that look like this
New main entrance
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.