By Jane Rhett
Homelake Veterans History Center Museum is located on the site of the Colorado Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, now the Colorado State Veterans Center at Homelake just east of Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley. The Home was established in 1889 at the behest of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) by an act of the state legislature to provide a home for the aging Civil War/Mexican War veterans. The first resident came in 1891 when the hospital building opened. More than 1,500 Civil War veterans came to the home from all parts of Colorado and other states. Shortly afterwards a barracks and commandant’s home was build. This facility has been a home to veterans from that time to present. The Homelake Cemetery, also part of the complex, each year hosts a Memorial Day Celebration and participated in Wreaths Across America in December.
The museum, located in the old dining hall, is the repository of all the records of the Home and all unclaimed military items found in safe deposit boxes within the state of Colorado. The museum’s collections also consist of military memorabilia donated by residents, their families and interested Valley residents, and has a library of military interest books, videos and CDs.
Presently the museum has an exhibit, World War I Remembered, which includes uniforms, photographs, items carried by the troops and recorded memories. There is also a list of San Luis Valley residents who served during this period and a chart of the Homelake Cemetery marking WWI veterans’ graves. This exhibit will run through November 2018.
The museum is run exclusively by volunteers and is open to the public year round with no charge. Our audience consists of students of history, genealogical researchers, family members of residents present and past, and tourists passing through the Valley. We also answer on line requests for information on residents.
In addition to the collections, the museum has a database for veterans of the San Luis Valley. This includes residents of the Home as well as any other military veterans who lived in or are buried in the San Luis Valley. The information comes from the Home’s records, newspaper obituaries, cemetery records, public input, as well as lists from military records off the web.
The museum is part of the Homelake Historic Preservation and Restoration Foundation 501(c)(3). The Foundation’s goal is to restore historic buildings on the campus of the Home, especially the Old Administration Building, which is in its fourth part of a restoration project with History Colorado for which we are now collecting matching funds for a new grant. This building, built in 1904-5, will become the home of the museum when restoration is completed. Much needed donations for the matching funds can be sent to HHPRF, P.O. Box 97, Homelake, CO 81135. The Museum is located at 3749 Sherman Ave., Monte Vista, Colorado. The website is www.homelakeveteransmuseum.org
Jane Rhett is a Researcher/Curator at the Homelake Veterans History Center Museum.