Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Our hallowed grounds of the Zablocki VA Medical Center can trace its roots back to one of the birthplaces of the modern-day Department of Veterans Affairs.
The West Side Soldiers Aid Society was one of the first groups to help returning Civil War Veterans, and raised more than $100,000 to build a permanent place of respite.
On March 3, 1865, a month before the Civil War ended, President Abraham Lincoln signed the act that created the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The West Side Soldiers Aid Society provided funding for the construction of a national home to be built in Milwaukee, one of the first three in the country. In May 1867, 60 Veterans moved into existing farm buildings on land that covered 425 acres.
The original domiciliary, affectionately known as Old Main, was completed in 1869. Using one building to serve all the Veterans’ needs was in keeping with the notion of living in a “home.” Old Main originally had a 500-bed capacity. Veterans received continuous care there through 1989.
The grounds saw a construction boom of new buildings in the late 1800s, including a hospital, library, chapel, theater and firehouse. Construction continued in 1923 with building 70, originally for tuberculosis patients; and building 43 in 1932 as a hospital annex. Many of these original buildings were designated as National Historic Landmarks in 2011.
The current 10-story hospital building opened in 1966. At the time, with 1,000 beds, it was one of the largest VA hospitals, with numerous modern features such as built-in oxygen, air conditioning and paging systems. In 1984, it was named after Milwaukee Congressman Clement J. Zablocki.
Almost the entire hospital has been modernized over the last few years. Most recent changes include a revamped and spacious East and South Entrance and Emergency Department.
We serve more than 64,000 Veterans annually. Our care continues on these grounds and in the community today with:
- Four additional clinics throughout the state offering care closer to where our Veterans live
- Our Community Resource and Referral Center in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood, which provides assistance to homeless Veterans
- Greenhouse Community Living Center which delivers nursing home-level care in a tranquil, home-like setting
- Spinal Cord Injury Center which provides care to our spinal cord-injured Veterans and gives them a new lease on life with adaptive sports
- Domiciliary care which provides much-needed help for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and other mental health issues
As we embrace our history and look to the future, this year we announced an Enhanced Use Lease partnership that will soon see Old Main called back to duty, and will be used to provide more housing for homeless Veterans.