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Veterans Affairs National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

Bath Branch

Bath, New York

View of domiciliary
Photo by Jet Lowe, Historic American Engineering Record Photographer

The Bath Branch (now the Bath VA Medical Center) in Bath, New York, was founded as the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home.  New York State leased and eventually sold the facility to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Board of Managers in 1929 after its membership declined.  Set along the Cohocton River, the Bath Branch still has 30 historic pre-1900 buildings designed in the Georgian Colonial, Victorian, and Stick styles. The diversity of buildings illustrates the wide variety of services the Bath Branch provided for veterans.  The cemetery, dating from 1879, is located in the northwestern corner of the campus. 

Toward the close of the Civil War, the citizens of New York saw the need for a soldiers' home to care for disabled veterans.  The State legislature drafted a bill to establish such a home, but the bill failed partly because families felt they could take care of the disabled veterans themselves.  Shortly thereafter, it became apparent that some families could not care for their disabled veterans and other veterans did not receive the support they needed.  In 1872, the State passed a law to establish a State home but did not appropriate any money for its construction.  The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union veterans association, decided to raise $100,000 to build the State home.  The area around Bath, New York, contributed $23,000 to the efforts, so the GAR decided to locate the State home near there. 

The cornerstone of the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home was laid on June 13, 1877, and it opened to veterans on Christmas day of 1878.  The Grand Army of the Republic, the GAR, built the first three buildings (Buildings 33, 34, and 35) on the campus.  These buildings were heated with steam radiators from a central heating plant and used gas lighting.  Currently Building 33 is used as the Human Resources office.  Building 34 is a domiciliary where members live. Building 35 is the Voluntary/Canteen.  The State of New York built several additional buildings after the GAR used its funds for the first three buildings.  These buildings include staff quarters, a hospital (Building 29), and Union Chapel (Building 39).  The State Home functioned much the same way as the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers branches.  The men lived at the branch and had the option of participating in many activities.  The branch maintained a 241-acre farm.  In 1917, the branch sold $17,186.72 worth of farm and garden produce.  The branch had a bowling alley installed in 1885 and a moving picture plant, for manufacturing movies, in 1909. 

Bath National Cemetery
Bath National Cemetery
Photo by Jet Lowe Historic American Engineering Record Photographer
Veterans had to be residents of New York for at least one year to become members of the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home.  Membership peaked in 1907 with 1,907 members.  Over the years, the Grand Army of the Republic petitioned the Board of Managers to incorporate the New York State Soldiers and Saliors Home into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer system. In 1928, the branch only had 192 members.  At that time, the State again sought to transfer ownership of the Home to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.  This process took almost two years.  In 1929, the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home became the Bath Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, one year before Executive Order 5398 consolidated the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Veterans Bureau, and Bureau of Pensions into the newly created Veterans Administration.  The Federal Government leased the facility for 10 years, and in 1932, the State formally deeded it to the Veterans Administration, ending State ownership and management requirements of the facility. 

The National Cemetery, north of the parade ground, was established in 1879 for burial of State Home residents.  The cemetery officially became a National Cemetery when the State transferred the Home to the Federal Government in 1929.  The 40-foot granite monument was dedicated in 1892 to the memory of soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. 
Plan your visit

The Bath Branch is located at 76 Veterans Ave. in Bath, NY.  The Bath Branch has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey. The facility is open to the public, and visitors can drive through and walk on the grounds, visit the cemetery, and view the historic buildings.  Visitors should check in with the Director’s Office upon their arrival at the facility.  If visiting after hours, check in with the police.  Volunteers maintain a museum (in Building 29) during the summer.  It is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00 pm, but closed Tuesday and Sunday.  If visitors have a large group, they can schedule a tour through the Director’s Office. Tours are also available in the off-season.  The National Cemetery is open from dawn until dusk each day.  For more information about visiting the Bath Branch, please see the Bath VAMC website. Please respect the privacy of veterans utilizing the facility.

Volunteers are an integral component of the Bath VAMC.  Volunteers assist with patient recreation activities such as bingo and chicken barbecue dinners.  Volunteers also staff the museum.  For more information about volunteering at Bath VAMC, please visit this website.

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