Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Home

Year Listed: 2005
County: Rio Grande County
Construction Date: 1889
Threat When Listed: Demolition by Neglect – Vacant

Established in the San Luis Valley in 1889, the Colorado State Veterans Center at Homelake (also referred to as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home) provided a peaceful place for aging and displaced Civil War veterans. This continuously operated complex is the oldest veterans’ center in the state and contains more than eighty structures. A cemetery with headstones in concentric circles surrounds a 1912 monument dedicated to veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars; veterans of every major conflict from the Civil War to the current war in Iraq are buried there. Fifty-two structures on site are considered contributing to the State Register Historic District; five buildings are listed individually. In 2002, the Colorado General Assembly passed a statute to establish the center as a repository for all unclaimed military memorabilia. This, in addition to a considerable archive of military artifacts already collected, has supporters envisioning a significant public display.

The Homelake Foundation was established to spearhead the project of preserving the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home. Colorado Preservation, Inc., the Department of Human Services, and a growing network of supporters, including national and state representatives, have joined forces to emphasize the importance of the site and its need for funding. The State Historical Fund awarded the site a grant in May 2006 for a master plan of the campus. Improvements to buildings that are in use have been upgraded to high priority by both federal and state governments. A two-phase grant from the State Historical Fund is restoring the former administration building to be turned into a museum. Those structures currently not in use are continuously deteriorating, with the Homelake Foundation applying for grants to re-roof and complete basic maintenance of these vacant buildings. A volunteer has begun to catalog records, journals, books and memorabilia, some of which date back to the 1800s. Items already catalogued are on display and open to the public every Tuesday.

CPI has had meetings with the Homelake Historic Preservation and Restoration Foundation. Unfortunately, the block of early 20th century buildings currently not being used by the Veteran’s Center remain threatened. They have no funds or plans for reuse. CPI has tried to market the sites to CCI and other Colorado Creative Groups for potential artists studios. The site needs asbestos removal (with a possible brownfields grant), a historic structures assessment, and a master plan for unused buildings.

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