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A new Veterans Home for Rhode Island

November 3, 2017
Rhode Island Veterans Home Cemetery Bristol

This Wednesday (November 1, 2017), residents at the Rhode Island Home for Veterans moved to a new, state-of-the-art facility.  After two and a half years of construction, the veterans are finally getting the spacious, home-like environment they asked for.

Designed by Providence-based architect Nathaniel Ginsburg, the complex is designed to feel like a small town.  It has a large common area at its center, which includes a gym and aqua-therapy room, a dining hall, a chapel, a medical suite, and a library.  The $121 million home was funded equally by the federal government and the State.

Surrounding the common space are six groups of residential buildings, called “neighborhoods” by the architects and builders that worked on the project.  In each neighborhood, 32 veterans will have their own rooms, as well as a common dining area, nurse station, and outdoor garden.  The design was inspired by veterans’ requests for a more residential, home-like environment.

Residents who need nursing care will live on the ground floor, while a smaller second floor will house residents who do not require one-on-one care.  Additionally, all buildings are connected by enclosed walkways, allowing residents to travel freely even in the rain or snow.

The historical Rhode Island Soldiers Home opened in 1891 at the same location where the new complex now stands.  It was replaced in 1955 by the now-empty building that housed Rhode Island’s veterans until last week.  The building, a flat-roofed brick structure, has “reached the end of its usable life,” says Ginsberg.  Now that the residents have moved to the new facility, the old home will be torn down to make room for an exercise track for the veterans.

Decorating the space has been a community effort.  The artwork decorating the home was commissioned from Rhode Island artists.  The altar in the chapel was carved from local wood by Bristol woodworker John Hugo, whose wife is the facility nursing instructor.  He created the altar at no charge, said Rick Baccus, the veterans home administrator.

The home also displays relics of the past.  World War II maps and newspaper articles adorn the walls, and a bell from a battleship used in the Spanish-American War is displayed in the lobby.  As a tribute to the property’s long history, a former water tower that dates back to the construction of the original home still stands in front of the main building.

At the entrance to the new veterans home, a stone monument reads, “To the veterans of Rhode Island from a grateful nation.”

Source:  Alex Kuffner, Providence Journal

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