By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 20, 2017 at 9:16 AM

You can see Old Main’s tower soaring above nearby Miller Park, reminding us of the historical and solemn importance of the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home Historic District campus.

It’s also a reminder that the oldest and most precious buildings at the site have long been in need of help.

A few years ago, we toured the campus and wrote this story, giving some background.

Over the years, we’ve followed the story as the site was deemed endangered, as an app was created to help visitors understand the historical and architectural importance of the site, as some much-needed repairs were made to stem the damage inflicted by the forces of nature, as the VA sought requests for proposals to develop the old structures and, finally, as word emerged that Old Main and five other buildings on the site would be converted to veterans’ housing.


A former crash lab in Old Main.

The Alexander Company is beginning work on the project, which is a big one – with a total cost of $40 million – in conjunction with Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Center for Veterans Issues, Uihlein Wilson Architects and Quorum Architects.

Eighty apartments are planned for Edward Townsend Mix’s iconic Old Main, built in 1869, 14 single-room occupancy units will be created in the nearby Administration Building and four duplexes on the grounds will also be restored for use as veterans housing. The entire project is expected to be completed by April 2019.

Earlier this month, the City of Milwaukee honored Veterans Day by announcing it has allocated $150,000 toward the project as part of an ongoing capital campaign to raise money for the project.

The campaign aims to raise $4.25 million that will be used with already secured $36 million in private investment to complete the project.

"Our veterans embody our American ideals of hard work, sacrifice, and resiliency. It is imperative that we honor our veteran’s sacrifices and take care of our service members when they return home, and this project does just that," said Milwaukee Ald. Michael Murphy in a statement.

You can lend a hand, too, by donating to the capital campaign. To learn more, visit savethesoldiershome.com.

"When these buildings were first constructed, they were designed as a refuge and healing place for veterans," said Milwaukee County Veterans Service Officer Jim Duff. "There are critical needs in the veteran community that can be met through this project."

We took a tour of Old Main recently so you could see inside. In this video, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Board President Peter Zanghi explains more about the project:

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 an episode of TV's "Party of Five," 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.