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.
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.