Bath Celebrates 131 Years of Caring
|Bath VA in the late 1800's. Building in the center of the photo is now Section 4 of the Domiciliary, originally the first building constructed in 1877 and was the original Mess Hall and Sleeping Quarters for the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Veterans.|
In 2010, the Bath VA Medical Center marked their 131st Anniversary of its grand opening as the Grand Army of the Republic New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home.
Establishing the Bath VA was a long process. In 1863 former governor Edwin Morgan made the first attempt. The State Legislature passed an act for the Soldiers and Sailors Home but the project was abandoned due to lack of interest.
In 1872, a second effort was made, this time by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Another act was passed, incorporating the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home to be built and maintained by the state.
Ironically, no funds were appropriated for the project. When considerable time had passed and funds still weren't forthcoming, the GAR made an appeal directly to the public.
This appeal brought in donations totaling $100,000. A committee was formed and potential sites were evaluated in Watkins Glen, Penn Yan, Lake Keuka, and Bath. Bath was chosen because residents of the community had raised $23,000 for the project, more than any other single community in the area.
The first cornerstone was laid on June 13, 1877 and the streets of the small village of Bath were congested with over 20,000 visitors. Keynote speakers included former governor Edwin Morgan and Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe).
The first residents of the home, Civil War Veterans, sat down to Christmas dinner in 1878. The grand opening of the facility actually took place on January 23, 1879.
Between 1878 and 1929 the home served wounded combat veterans of New York State. A peak population of 2,143 was reached in 1907, but due to increased age and deaths these ranks were reduced to 192 by 1928.
The Bath Chamber of Commerce requested that the U.S. Government take responsibility of the home and admit veterans from the Spanish-American War and World War One, thus opening it up to veterans from outside New York State.
In May 1929, the Home came under the Board of Managers, National Home for Disabled Veteran Soldiers. This federal agency was abolished when the Veterans Administration was established in 1930.
Today, the Bath VAMC serves over 12,000 Veterans from the Southern Tier of New York and Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.