Monday, October 6, 2014

Wisconsin Veterans Home, Part One

At the time of the Civil War, Wisconsin was little more then a pioneer frontier but the state managed to send 12,300 to fright for the cause of the union.  Of the survivors, many of the once health young men returned crippled or in ill health.  The National Solder's Home in Milwaukee would only accommodate the veterans but not their wives.  The Milwaukee home also proved inadequate for the number of veteran wishing to be admitted.  There was as well the question of the widows of veterans who often found the county poor house to be their only recourse.  The Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization, formed a committee and worked with the state to build a home for Wisconsin's veterans.  A search for a suitable location was conducted in 1887 and narrowed to six cities; Berlin, Waupaca, New Lisbon, Evansville, Sheboygan and Watertown.  The Greenwood Park Hotel site on Rainbow Lake was chosen and was purchased by the city of Waupaca along with seventy eight acres which was in turn donated to the Veterans Home.  Remodeling of the 1881 hotel began at once and plans for more building got under way as well.                              
On April 25, 1889 there was an article in the Oshkosh Times which told of Architect Waters' plans for several building to be constructed in the coming season at the home.  There was mention of a hotel like building to house the veterans and ten to twelve cottages.  The next month there was yet another write up quoting Commandant, Captain Woodnorth who had been to see Mr. Waters.  Among the improvements mentioned were a water works system, dining, kitchen and ladies hall, superintendent and doctor's building, store room, ice house, a large barn and twenty cottages. All were to be completed a ready for occupancy by the winter.     
One building not mention was the 21st Regiment Club House, a charming Queen Anne Style structure said to have been one of the finest club houses.  It was later known as Joseph H. Woodnorth Hall and later was used as the nurses quarters before being demolished in 1971.  The superintendents residence was a striking Queen Anne Style building with a long sloping roof and a most unusual corner belvedere.    
Not of a picturesque style, the Dining Hall was utilitarian in form and function.  All meals were cooked and served from this building and the second floor was the women's dormitory.  It was located just behind Marden Hall; the former Greenwood Park Hotel.  
Across the road to Waupaca was Marston Hall a beautiful Queen Anne Style, hotel like building. Two octagon portions flanked the central pavilion with a veranda along the front and at center was a two story portico.  On the back side of the hall were three wings left, right and center which held resident rooms.  Because of the halls distance from the rest of the campus it was known as Canada and it was a hardship in the winter for residences to walk to the dining hall for meals, a kitchen and dining room were then added.  Marston was torn down in July of 1985, after ninety five years of service.  


  1. I remember when writing the book there was the northwestern article explaining in depth the newly constructed buildings on the grounds. The article was printed but due to space we didn't print any of the James Jensen drawings. If I remember every building on the grounds were illustrated in the paper.

  2. David, is it from the Oshkosh Times of 3/16/1890 and can one get copies of the sketches? I would really like to see them before my next post.

  3. Your right it was the times. We gave all our microfilm copies to the library. Otherwise check the times if you can. It may have been the weekly or Sunday times.

  4. The superintendents house with the unusual corner belvedere is still there, standing proud, still has a green roof

  5. Sebastain, the superintendent building is truly unique. I don't think Mr. Waters designed anything else like it.