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The Old Soldiers' Home: A Veterans' Community By the Sea Exhibit Showcases Local Military History

Santa Monica History Museum Announces New Exhibit of Veterans Affairs Campus History


October 9, 2016

The Chapel at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration was built in 1867 at the Captain's quarters. It is the oldest building in West Los Angeles.

The Santa Monica History Museum will display an exhibition of the history of the Veterans Affairs Greater West Los Angeles Medical Center from Saturday, October 8, 2016 until Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at the Santa Monica History Museum at 1350 7th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Visitors are invited to view documents, photographs, military uniforms, and other artifacts that will bring to life the storied history of veterans in our community.

Established by Congress on land deeded from Arcadia Bandini de Baker, Senator John P. Jones, and John Wolfkill, the site for the Pacific Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and Sailors (as it was then known) was selected for its "climate and hygiene" from more than 60 other possible locations – including the entirety of Santa Catalina Island. Early advertising for nearby land in the Sawtelle community lauded the site selection and praised the area as "the perfect locale for veterans." Veterans showed their support, too. Before any structures could be built, a Civil War veteran, Private George Davis, not willing to put up with another New York winter, became the first resident of the new home by taking up residence in a tent on the grounds. Not long after, a group of veterans from the California State Veterans Home in Yountville showed up on foot – they had marched 500 miles to become residents of the new facility.

A fixture of the Santa Monica and Los Angeles landscape for nearly 130 years the Old Soldiers' Home, as it was once known, has been and still is the site of many iconic buildings. Architect Stanford White designed the original Shingle style barracks which inspired J. Lee Burton's later designs for the Streetcar Depot and Wadsworth Chapel. The Streetcar Depot once sat on the famous Los Angeles Pacific Company's Balloon Route – an electric railway line that carried day-trippers on a 100 mile circuit across Los Angeles County – allowing residents to ride from the Old Soldiers' Home to the 99 steps and the beach beyond.

During the 1930s and 1940s the Veterans Affairs facility was redeveloped and expanded with a building boom, modernizing the operation and preparing for the influx of veterans post World War II. Today, a state-of- the-art hospital stands alongside historic buildings, a golf course, a cutting-edge parrot therapy center, and much more.

The exhibit, The Old Soldiers' Home: A Veterans' Community by the Sea, will detail the history of the Old Soldiers' Home, the ways in which it has changed over the years, and the veterans and nearby residents who helped build this community. Photographs, documents, military uniforms, and other historical artifacts will bring the history of the Veterans Affairs facility to life. Objects for this exhibit come from the museum's collections as well as from the private collection of the Bandini family. It will be a unique exhibition showcasing the distinctive history of our community.

The museum, and this exhibit, are open to the public Tuesday and Thursday noon to 8:00 PM, and Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays. General admission for adults and seniors is $10.00 and $5.00 for students. Veterans, active-duty military, children 12 and under, and Santa Monica History Museum members receive free admission.

About the Santa Monica History Museum

Founded under the Historical Activities Committee of the Santa Monica Centennial Celebration in 1975, the Santa Monica History Museum is a "Santa Monica Treasure." Originally known as the Santa Monica Historical Society we are the official collector and preserver of the history, art, and culture of the Santa Monica Bay Area. The museum's historical collections are comprised of over one million items including the personal historical collection of Senator John P. Jones, co-founder of Santa Monica; the archives of the Santa Monica Outlook Newspaper (1875-1998); the photo collections of well-known photographers Bill Beebe, Bob Smith, George Tate, Justine Hill, and author Fred Basten; and much, much more. The museum has six galleries and a research library located in a state-of-the-art facility adjacent to the main Santa Monica

Public Library campus.

The Santa Monica History Museum preserves, protect, and promote the rich history of Santa Monica. The museum is open to the public five days a week and we curate seasonal and special exhibits throughout the year in addition to our permanent exhibits. We offer extensive free educational programing including guided school tours, children's workshops, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Our research library and team of researchers provide the public with access to detailed historical information upon request.


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