Dayton to become home to National VA History Center

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dayton VA chief of engineering Philip Kirk explains plans for the future National VA History Center on the Dayton VA campus. Video produced by Barrie Barber.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Dayton VA will become the home of the National VA History Center, the federal agency announced Thursday.

Outgoing national VA Secretary Robert McDonald officially designated the Dayton VA as a national archive in one of his final acts prior to leaving office Friday, the VA said. A Trump administration nominee, David Shulkin, the current VA undersecretary of health, is expected to take over the top post.

In April, McDonald declared the VA campus in Dayton the site for the future archive estimated to cost $20 million through a mixture of public dollars and yet to be raised private funds. McDonald said then Dayton was a “fitting home” for the agency’s historical archives.

A memorandum of agreement on the project was signed Thursday between federal VA leaders and local government, nonprofit agency and economic development officials.

“Really, we wanted to make sure we had something in writing, some kind of a stake in the ground that would say we’re definitely doing this,” Dayton VA Director Glenn Costie said in an interview Thursday.

The VA has committed roughly $5 million to $6 million so far, Costie said, and future fund raising will need to pay the rest in what could take five to 10 years to complete. The new agreement set up a governing board and a committee to raise money.

Two buildings will be part of the project. The agency’s massive archives will be housed in an old national headquarters and a clubhouse.

As part of the first phase, Costie said renovation work replacing the roof and windows has started on the headquarters building to stop further deterioration. Completion is expected this summer. Then, similar renovation work will begin at the clubhouse. Both buildings have stood vacant for years.

“But given the funding and time it will take many, many years to get to the end of that rainbow,” Costie said. “We’re hoping that with the help from the community we can raise the money quicker and then move faster on the restoration of the two buildings.”

The former headquarters building, built in 1871, will house museum exhibition space, a lecture hall, staff offices, and a gift shop, the VA said.

An oral history studio will allow veterans to record their military service histories as part of a Library of Congress veterans history project, the VA said.

The clubhouse building, built in 1881, will house historical archives for the entire VA system, including art, artifacts, records, photographs and other documents, the VA said in a statement.

A Dayton Development Coalition study has indicated around 440 jobs could be created in retail, tourism and education-related work within five years of its opening.

The Dayton VA, which began in 1867 as one of the first three National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in the United States, marks its 150th anniversary this year.

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