Guide to the Central National Soldiers' Home
Guide to the Central National Home - Section Two

 

Headquarters.

 

The first building north of the Campus.  It is a handsome two-story brick with mansard roof. Here are the offices of the Governor, Treasurer, Secretary, and Adjutant. The Governor and his staff are always here during business hours, which are from 8:00 A. M. to 4:00 p. M. In this building is transacted the vast business involved in managing this great institution.

Colonel Thomas has been connected with the Home longer than any other of its present officers, it being nearly twenty-four years since his original appointment. He was born in Pennsylvania, educated at Knox College, Illinois; read medicine with Dr. William Chamberlain at Toulon, Illinois; graduated at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in 1858; and began the practice of his profession at Wyoming, Illinois.

When the war broke out, Dr. Thomas entered the service as assistant surgeon of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served in the Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Cumberland. After the first year he was detached from his regiment to serve as surgeon in charge of the Government hospitals at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and at Gallatin, Tennessee. Later he was appointed chief executive officer of the Cumberland United States Army general hospital at Nashville. He continued in important service of this character until the close of the War, when he opened an office at Wyandotte, Kansas.

Shortly after, in the fall of 1867, Dr. Thomas was appointed the first Treasurer of the Central Home, ranking next to the Governor. The duties of the Treasurer are many and onerous. He has charge of all moneys and property belonging to the Home, the work of the office having grown from about $100,000 per year to considerably over half a million. Colonel Thomas occupied this responsible office for twenty-one years, and at the death of the late Governor Patrick in 1888, was elected Governor of the Central Home. His experience and executive ability admirably fit him for the position.

 

Reception of Members.

 

When a volunteer soldier desires admission he may apply by letter to any member of the Board of Managers, who will send blank applications to the applicant. Then, if he be found duly qualified, transportation will be furnished, or he can apply personally or by letter at the branch nearest his place of residence. The requirements are as follows:

1. An honorable discharge from the United States service.

2. Disability by wounds or sickness, disqualifying him from earning a livelihood.

3. A soldier entitled to, or drawing a pension must forward with his application for admission his discharge papers and pension certificate, or receipt for them. These papers will be kept on file and returned to him when he is discharged. The Home then collects the pension and pays it to the soldier or his family, as needed.

 

Memorial Hall.

 

This edifice is one of the most symmetrical structures at the Home, and stands between the Headquarters and Church. It was built in 1880. The furnishings and equipments of the interior are surpassed by few opera houses in the country. Last year thirty-four dramatic companies visited the Home, giving fifty-two entertainments. There were also 213 free band concerts. The Hall will seat comfortably 1,500 people.

The Church.

 

This was among the first buildings erected on the grounds, dating back to 1868. It is built in the Gothic style, of dark gray limestone from the Home quarry. The stained-glass windows shed "a dim, religious light" over the tasteful furnishings within, while the ivy climbing over the exterior gives it a charming look of antiquity. Every opportunity is given members of the Home to improve themselves morally and religiously. The Chaplain, Rev. J. W. Lerch, conducts the English Protestant services; the Sunday afternoon German service is in charge of Rev. E. Light; and the services of the Catholic Church are regularly conducted by the Catholic Chaplain, Rev. Dr. C. S. Kemper. The Woman's Christian Association of Dayton holds services here on every alternate Sunday afternoon.

The New Library Building.

 

Until this year the Library and Reading Room occupied the second floor of the Headquarters building; but they have been recently transferred to the handsome three-story brick edifice remodeled for the purpose just north of the Home Store, on Ohio Avenue. Entering the building we find first the Reading Room, which is well supplied with the current newspapers (both English and German), magazines and reviews. It is a favorite resort for the veterans. On this first floor they apply for the books and receive them when sent down, so that all fatigue of climbing stairs is spared them.

The second floor is devoted to the PUTNAM LIBRARY, a collection of rare and valuable works, the gift of MRS. MARY LOWELL PUTNAM, of Boston. Her son, a gallant young officer, gave up his life in defense of his country, and in commemoration of that event his mother bestowed upon the Home this magnificent donation.  On five anniversaries in each year she adds to the collection: the birthday of Washington, Memorial Day, the anniversary of Lieutenant Putnam's death, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The portrait of the young soldier may be seen looking down from its wreath covered position over the Library.

On the third floor is the "George H. Thomas Library," established in honor of that gallant general, "The Rock of Chickamauga," whose martial figure looks down from its frame on the wall. This part of the library is constantly being increased by donations and purchases from the Post Fund.

The walls of all these spacious, airy apartments are adorned with engraved and oil portraits and historical scenes—many of them gifts of Mrs. Putnam. During the past year Mrs. Putnam has added 188 volumes to the "Putnam Library," and 224 books have been added to the "George H. Thomas Library," making the total number of volumes in the libraries 17,656. The number of books issued was 56,011.

 

The Home Store

 

Was started in 1868 without a dollar's capital, to accommodate members of the Home and to create a fund from its profits. Out of this fund have been provided an abundance of reading matter, amusements of various kinds, and entertainments. The Home Band, which ranks high among similar organizations, has been largely equipped and maintained out of this fund.

 

Barracks.

 

The barracks, or company quarters, are not what is usually meant by this term. Many of them are of brick, three stories high; and all are comfortably furnished throughout, healed by steam, lighted by gas, well ventilated, and abundantly supplied with water from hydrants.  Every bedstead is of iron and supplied with a wire mattress.  Each man is allowed three woolen blankets, one counterpane, two sheets, and two pillows. Comfort is sought and secured.

 

The Band.

 

This is a feature of the Home of which everybody is proud. The members are well drilled, handsomely uniformed, and led by a very efficient band master. The open air concerts on summer evenings are given from the band-stand on the Campus Martius, and attract thousands of visitors from Dayton and the surrounding country.

 

The Amusement Hall

 

Is a neat three-story brick building in the rear of Company 15. The first floor is occupied by a ten-pin alley, pigeon-hole and bagatelle tables. On the second floor is the billiard hall, free for the amusement of members of the Home. Visitors, on payment of a small fee, are allowed to use them when vacant. The third floor is devoted exclusively to the use of the soldier organizations of the Home—the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Veteran Union, and the Union Veteran League. The band quarters occupy part of the second floor.

 

The Bath House

 

Is supplied with hot and cold water, clean towels, and plenty of soap. It is open six days in the week, and is liberally used, as is shown by the fact that last year 134,896 baths were taken.

 

The Laundry,

 

 At the west end of Iowa Avenue, does the washing for a family of over 5,000 men. All the work is done by steam; and every week tens of thousands of articles are washed, dried, mended, ironed, and delivered all over the camp. In twelve months the total foots up to the astonishing figure of 2,061,635 pieces.

 

The Stand-Pipe

 

Is on Iowa Avenue, east of the Laundry. It is certainly a prominent feature of the Home, rearing its giant head 148 feet from the base, and overlooking everything on the grounds. It is eighteen feet in diameter, and will contain 300,000 gallons. Water can thus be thrown over the highest buildings, obviating all danger of a serious fire. It was built by Brownell & Co., of Dayton.

 

Officers' Quarters.

 

The residences of the officers are located in various parts of the grounds. Just south of the Campus Martius, in a handsome grove, is the residence of the Governor, in the midst of well-kept grounds and commanding a fine view of most of the Home. West of the Governor's house is that of the Treasurer and still further west those of the Secretary and Commissary of Subsistence. A short distance east of the Hospital is the residence of the Surgeon; and west of the new Property Building those of the Chaplain and Adjutant.

 

Deer Park

 

Is an extensive inclosure located on the rising ground south of the Campus. A herd of twenty graceful deer roam over it. A huge black bear disports himself for your amusement; while raccoons, prairie dogs, and various other animals find happiness in their own way. Not the least interesting feature is the keeper's magnificent Newfoundland dog, which once belonged to the late Governor

 

The Pump House

 

Is a handsome brick structure on the shore of East Lake. in which a powerful steam engine is constantly engaged in pumping water from the lake to the Stand-pipe   Should the Stand-pipe at any time need repairing, there is an additional line from the Pump House through which the water is pumped directly to the water-mains.  Every lover of mechanics will be interested in examining the Water Works system here.

 

The Lakes

 

Are one of the chief attractions of the Home. The Big Lake is the eastern boundary of the grounds, and the others extend like a chain of pearls to the westward.  They are well stocked with fish.  Boats can be procured and a pleasant row enjoyed upon them. The connecting streams are spanned by rustic bridges.  On the Middle Lake lies the Garfield, a miniature man-of-war . At one time it was attached to the Cumberland. and when that vessel was run down by the Rebel ram Merrimac, the survivors were taken ashore in the Garfield.  It was cut down to its present proportions to appear in the parade at General Garfield’s inauguration. When the martyr president was buried the little ship was presented to the Central Home.

 

Martindale Conservatory and Flower Garden.

 

The former is an extensive L-shaped structure beside the Middle Lake It is a veritable crystal palace, containing rare plants from many lands  The flower garden is a spot too lovely to describe. It is surrounded by cliff, lakes and terraces; bordered by grottoes and rippling fountains, and filled with the music of feathered songsters. No part of the grounds receives more constant :   care than the garden, and its beds are laid off in forms of beauty ever changing. It is stocked with over 200,000 plants, flowers, and shrubs, all produced by the Home propagating houses, and is all under the immediate supervision of Mr. Charles Beck, who has few superiors in his line.

 

The Post-Office

 

Does quite an extensive business, dispatching last year 131,085 letters and postal cards. It received for the issue of money orders and postal notes alone the handsome sum of $28,533.77. Postal money orders can be procured here on all parts of the United States, Algeria, Belgium, and the British Empire. Money orders sent here should, be made payable at the "National Military Home" which is the name of this post-office.

 

The Hotel-Restaurant

 

Is a handsome brick building located west of the passenger depot. Its objects are to provide meals to visitors and lodging to theatrical companies who come to play at the Home. The dining room will seat 130 at a time, besides a room for private or family suppers, which will accommodate thirty at a table. The restaurant, on the ground floor, furnishes lunch and refreshments. The clerk Colonel George R. Myers, is in charge, and Mrs. E. L. Miller, the Matron' has general supervision.       

                                           

The Property Building,

 

South of the Hospital, is one of the recent additions to the architecture of the Home. It is over 400 feet long, and built substantially of brick at a cost of about $75,000. It consists of two equal parts, whose first floors are connected by a bridge spanning the driveway through the center. The north building is devoted to the Commissary Department, and the south to the uses of the Quartermaster, both of which offices are united in the person of Captain James C Michie. On the second and third floors are the extensive tailor shop, described elsewhere, and the depot for supplies. Of course the business of these departments is immense, and the system is so perfect that every minute detail is worked out with military precision. Flour, meats, potatoes, outer, eggs and other supplies, are purchased under competitive bids in carloads or larger lots.  Special treats in the way of extras and delicacies are given the men by the Commissary Department at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays  Last Christmas a beautiful illustrated menu card to fold in the shape of a cartridge box was issued to all as a souvenir of the occasion.

Freight trains laden with provisions run alongside the Property Building to be unloaded, so that teams are not needed in handling freight. Some idea of the quantity of provisions required here may be derived from the fact that last year the amount expended on subsistence alone was over $328,000. But although the very best that the market affords is furnished the men, the system of economy is so perfect that the total average expense in the Home for the year, including clothing, was a little less than $121 per man.

 

Central Boiler House, Fire Department, and Tunnel.

 

The former, a comparatively new structure, is east of the Property Building. Here most of the steam is generated for cooking and heating purposes through-out the Home. It is in operation day and night during most of the year. Its symmetrical chimney overtops the surrounding buildings. Until natural gas was secured, upwards of 18,000 tons of coal were used during the year for fuel and in the production of gas and steam. This whole department is in the immediate charge of Mr. Thomas P. Evans, chief engineer.

Here also is the Home Fire Department, equipped with a beautiful engine, hook and ladder, and six hose carts. Of late years, however, the engine is seldom needed or used, as there are fire hydrants in all parts of the grounds, whose pressure will throw water over the highest buildings, making a destructive fire almost impossible. A curiosity at the engineer's office is a miniature model of the large engine in a space twenty inches square, the work of Tom Hinton, an ingenious member of the Home.

The system of tunnels which connect the various boiler houses is a remarkable piece of engineering skill to be seen here. They are altogether a mile and a half long, and so roomy that a tall man can walk through them without stooping. They are lined with brick, and cost about $40,000. They contain the main pipes for water, steam, and gas, which supply the entire institution.

The Work Shops Are the scene of varied activities. Almost everything used on the grounds is manufactured or repaired in these shops. The most extensive of these is the tailor shop, which now occupies the second floor of the Property Building. Here is manufactured the greater part of the clothing used in the various branches of the National Home.  A vast array of sewing machines, all run by steam, are constantly turning out the blue uniforms worn here. An idea of the magnitude of the business is obtained from the fact that last year the gross earnings of this shop alone were $202,778.11.

At the knitting shop socks for the Home are manufactured on a large scale. The year's product was 39,270 pairs.

The carpenter and cabinet department is a complete workshop, whose machinery is driven by powerful steam engines. Its gross earnings in a year were $18,637.84.

The others are the blacksmith, engineer, harness, linen, paint, printing, hoe, suspender, tin, upholstery, and bookbindery shops,—making a pretty complete independent system of industrial self-support.  The total amount of business credited to all these shops last year was $313,590,44.

 

Hospital.

 

The large three-story brick building which originally constituted the entire Hospital was built in 1868 for the accommodation of 350 patients. But as the demands upon the institution became greater, frame buildings were put up in the rear, and finally two commodious brick buildings south of the original hospital.  The entire institution now contains twenty wards, with accommodations for 840 patients.  Here are all the appointments of a first-class city Hospital. There are also accommodations for 600 men in the convalescent wards in the barracks. The Surgeon, who has been for over six years in charge of this immense institution, is Dr. F. H. Patton; the Matron, Mrs. E. L. Miller, whose services in connection with the Hospital and other departments have been invaluable to the Home throughout its history.

 

The Blind.

 

The lower floors of Barracks Nos. 14 and 15 are set apart for the blind. Many of them have become expert bead-workers. Various means are resorted to in order to amuse and instruct them, one of which is the employment of a comrade to read to them the daily papers. The majority go to the general Dining Hall, where they have a special table set apart for their use.

 

Cemetery and Monument.

 

The city of the dead at the Soldier's Home is a place whose natural beauty but enhances its sad associations. It crowns the extensive knoll near the northwestern corner of the grounds, lying south of the Eaton Pike. Here rest the battle-scarred remains of about 4,000 veterans, whom war's reveille will awake no more.

When we remember that the average age of the members of the whole National Home is 57 1/3 years, and that they had the wounds and hardships of a great war to endure, it does not seem strange that death should be busy among them. Last year 297 of this Home joined their comrades at the Cemetery. Almost every day in the year a military escort accompanies the remains of a dead soldier to the Church and their last resting-place.

Every grave is marked with a simple headstone containing the name of the deceased, his regiment, company, and the date of his death.

The tombstones are of uniform size and arranged in perfect symmetry. In the center towers the Soldiers' Monument, whose pedestal, forty-eight feet in height, once served as a pillar of the old United States Bank at Philadelphia, and was donated many years ago by Congress to the Home. It is surmounted by a colossal statue of a United States infantry soldier standing at parade rest. The extreme height is fifty-eight feet. Surrounding the base of the Monument are four military figures representing the four branches of the service,—infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy. All of the statues are of pure white marble, and were carved in Italy. On the base of the monument is the inscription:

 

"TO OUR FALLEN COMRADES."

 

The entire cost was about $20,000, which was principally raised by an organization of members of the Home known as the MONUMENTAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

The Cemetery circle is filling, segment by segment, and in a few short years will be covered with the gallant dead.

 

"Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,

Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;

Dream of battlefields no more,—

Days of danger, nights of waking."

 

Light and Fuel.

 

There is a complete system of gas works erected in the northwestern quarter of the grounds, which supplies excellent gas for the lighting of the entire Home. In September, 1889, the Dayton Natural Gas Company completed its line to the Home, since which time natural gas has been used entirely for fuel. The natural gas is also mixed with manufactured gas for illuminating purposes.

 

Home Farm and Dairy.

 

The vegetables consumed at the Home are partly raised on the Home farm, which covers a large portion of the entire domain. The products of the farm for the year 1889-90 were valued at nearly $26,000. A large and well stocked dairy adds its quota to the solution of the food question.

The Dining Hall, On New Jersey Avenue, is built of brick, three stories high, and covered with a truss or self-supporting roof. The seating capacity is something enormous, Both the first and second floors are used for dining purposes, and 1,130 men are seated on each floor at a time. It is therefore necessary to set the tables twice to accommodate the men. It is a sight well worth seeing, when at the tap of the bell the seven large double doors swing open and 2,200 men march in, each to his own seat. Over one hundred waiters look after the wants of their comrades. An additional dining hall is now being built north of the original one. When this is completed none of the men will have to climb stairs go to their meals.

 

The Bill of Fare

 

At the Dining Hall changes every day in the week, and on holidays there is not a hotel in the land that surpasses the Home in serving dinner. On Sundays the following menus are served:

Breakfast—Sliced ham, potatoes, bread, butter, and coffee.

Dinner— Roast mutton, potatoes, green peas or Lima beans, green onions, or cucumber pickles, apple or berry pie, bread, butter, and coffee.

Supper— Stewed dried fruit, or apple butter, or strawberries, sugar cookies, bread, butter, and tea.

 

Here is an average week-day bill of fare:

Breakfast— Sugar cured shoulders, stewed beans, bread, butter, and coffee.

Dinner— Roast beef, potatoes, dried peas or stewed tomatoes, new cucumbers in season, apple or blackberry pie, bread, butter, and coffee.

Supper—Biscuit, bread, rolled oats or hominy, syrup, butter, and tea.

The hospital bill of fare is prescribed by the Surgeon.

 

Food.

 

Bread, per day, 2,550 pounds.

Butter, per day, 550 pounds.

Beef (fresh), per day, 2,500 pounds.

Coffee, 260 pounds per day, 1,300 gallons.

Tea, 55 pounds per day, 600 gallons.      

Milk, per day, 265 gallons.

Biscuits, per meal, 615 pounds.               

Ham, per meal, 2,850 pounds.            

Cheese, per day, 200 pounds.                 

Sugar, per day, 550 pounds.

Cakes, per day, 750 pounds.                   

Crackers, per day, 230 pounds,

Pies, per day, 2,520.                               

Eggs, per day, 124 dozen.

Beans (navy), 600 pounds.                     

Beans (Lima), per day, 350 pounds.

Beans (string), per day, 50 bushels.        

Irish stew, one day each week, 700 gallons.

Onions, 54 bushels.                                 

Onions (green), bunches, 340 dozen.

Green peas, per day, 80 bushels.           

Beets, per day, 25 bushels.

Potatoes, per day, 50 bushels.               

Prunes, per day, 400 pounds.

Dried apples, per day, 375 pounds.             

Green corn, per day, 405 dozen.

Cucumbers, per day, 120 dozen.               

Squashes, per day, 158 dozen.

Mutton, weekly, 3,000 pounds.

Cranberries, Christmas, 720 quarts.            

Oysters, Christmas, 95 gallons.

Turkey, Thanksgiving, 4,438 pounds          

Oranges, holidays, 500 dozen.

Celery, holidays, 205 dozen.
Fresh fish, one meal every 2 weeks, 2,850 pounds.

 

Dining Hall Kitchen and Bakery.

 

Visitors should not fail to go through these departments, which adjoin the Dining Hall. Everything is prepared by steam and on a big scale. There are immense boilers, ovens, and kettles in which are wholesomely cooked the meals for five thousand men. It is just as easy to make a stew composed of 1,600 pounds of beef, fifty bushels of potatoes, and three barrels of onions, besides 650 gallons of coffee, (all of which goes into a morning's breakfast) as it is for the frugal housewife to broil a chicken for her little family.

In the bakery are employed 21 bakers, who are busy most of the. time, Every day 3,000 pounds of bread are turned out. Three times per week 8,250 cookies are made. Twice weekly 300 pies are cooked and eaten at a meal; and once a week 4,600 ginger cakes and as many cinnamon cakes share a similar fate.

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