How a friend in the statehouse and Civil War veterans built the 155-year-old Dayton VA

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Home Chapel, the first permanent chapel ever built by the United States government, was dedicated Oct. 26, 1870.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Here are five things to know about the history of the Dayton VA.

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Construction of Home Hospital was completed in 1870 on the campus of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton. The main building had 300 beds and an operating room in the basement. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Credit: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Construction of Home Hospital was completed in 1870 on the campus of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton. The main building had 300 beds and an operating room in the basement. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Credit: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Combined ShapeCaption
Construction of Home Hospital was completed in 1870 on the campus of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton. The main building had 300 beds and an operating room in the basement. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Credit: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

Credit: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

1. The center began as part of a national effort to care for Civil War veterans. The idea for the National Home, now known as the Dayton VA Medical Center, sprang from the United States Sanitary Commission, a group who oversaw the care of wounded Civil War veterans. The commission lobbied Congress to form an agency that would oversee the care of veterans. President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation on March 3, 1865.

» READ MORE: How Dayton paid respect to America’s veterans

2. Dayton had a friend in the legislature that helped land it Ohio's home. Lewis B. Gunckel of Germantown, considered the "Father of the Dayton VA," was instrumental in locating the Soldiers Home in Dayton. The 393 acres Gunckel, who served in the Ohio Senate for four years, proposed met all criteria, and the home was located three miles west of downtown Dayton.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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History Extra looks at the origin of the grotto and landscaped gardens on the grounds of the Dayton VA Medical Center.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

3. Veterans created a grotto and landscaped gardens on the site. A crew of 75 veterans molded the topography of the gardens in the limestone quarry area and built the caverns within the grotto shortly after the home opened. Gardener Frank Mundt began growing vines in the rock crevices in 1868. He took care of growing and caring for native plant species in the grotto as well as cultivating exotic plants in greenhouses on the campus.

» READ MORE: Stunning grotto built by Dayton war veterans

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A view of Home Chapel on the grounds of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the Dayton VA Medical Center, dedicated Oct. 26, 1870. PHOTO: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

A view of Home Chapel on the grounds of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the Dayton VA Medical Center, dedicated Oct. 26, 1870. PHOTO: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

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A view of Home Chapel on the grounds of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the Dayton VA Medical Center, dedicated Oct. 26, 1870. PHOTO: DAYTON VA ARCHIVES

4. The first U.S. government-built permanent chapel stands at the center. Home Chapel was dedicated in October 1870. The Gothic-style church with a frescoed interior was built by the Civil War veterans living at the Soldiers Home who quarried the limestone from the property. The chapel still stands on the grounds of the Dayton VA Medical Center.

» READ MORE: Chapel, a government first, continues to serve Dayton's veterans after 146 years

5. The center became a place to visit for people across Ohio. More than 660,000 visited the home at its peak in 1910. Railroads created special soldiers’ home picnic excursions. Visitors could catch a train from Cleveland and other cities and travel to Dayton for the day. They joined the soldiers in the gracefully appointed Memorial Hall for lectures and recitals.

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