On Friday, Old Main fulfilled its promise. Again.

Opened in 1869 as housing for Civil War Veterans, the facility on the grounds of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center is, once again, serving as a home for Veterans.

A nearly 20-year campaign to save the grand building, which was shuttered in 1989, culminated Friday as a handful of Veterans moved into their new apartments in the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, the result of an 18-month renovation project.

“Thank you so much,” U.S. Navy Veteran Robert Williams said shortly before getting the keys to his apartment. “I’ve very grateful for everyone involved.”

“It’s so beautiful,” fellow Navy Veteran Amber Jones. “It’s really nice. I’m glad they were able to do this. They’ve done an amazing job.”

Jones and Williams joined U.S. Army Veteran Henry Anderson as the first Veterans to move into the building on Friday. More will join them next week.

Nearly 40 Veterans have been accepted to live in Old Main via the HUD-VASH program. The apartments are specifically for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and rent is based on a percentage of each tenant’s income.

In all, 101 units are available in Old Main and the former Administration Building directly to the south.

“This is really exciting, especially to see the Veterans come in and make a new home,” said social worker Christine Taber, who is working with the new tenants. She is one of two social workers who will work full time in the building, assisting Veterans.

“We hope this becomes a great place for them to develop community and make the most of what the VA has to offer,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of work and effort by a lot of people to make this happen.”

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This article was originally published by the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.