By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 17, 2018 at 2:55 PM

As work proceeds on converting architect Edward Townsend Mix’s imposing hilltop "Old Main" building – and five others – on the grounds of the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home Historic District campus into veterans housing, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued Requests for Proposals on three nearby structures.

Those structures are Henry Koch’s eye-catching shingle-style chapel, built in 1889, Mix’s 1867-68 Governor’s Mansion, and Koch’s 1881-82 Ward Memorial Hall, a theater that hosted a wide variety of well-known talent over the years.

Suggested development plans for the three structures are due by Jan. 7, 2019. These projects are part of the VA’s Historic Reuse Program (HRP), which does not demand that the buildings be used only for homeless veteran housing, which opens up a broader range of potential developments than at Old Main.

"These are remarkable buildings," said Peter Zanghi, president of the Board of Directors of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, in a statement issued today. "The opportunity to return them to the service of veterans has been a longtime goal of ours through the Save the Soldiers Home effort. This week, we took a major step toward making it happen.

"Our priority is to find interested developers who share our commitment to ensuring veterans are served by these buildings."

Last month, developers The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) signed an Enhanced Use Lease with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after receiving Congressional approval to move ahead with the $40 million veterans housing project in Old Main and five other buildings.

"This was a complex and critical process," said Joe Alexander, The Alexander Company president. "It’s just the latest step in our collective effort to welcome Veterans back into Old Main and other key buildings."

To learn more about the projects or to make a donation, visit

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 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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.