This month marks the 50th anniversary of VA’s efforts to team with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to carefully and faithfully preserve VA’s many important historic sites. Since October 15, 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the department has been the careful custodian of sites such as the award-winning Building 209 of the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center campus and Building 9 of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina, that is currently being renovated to provide a variety of mental health services. Altogether, VA is the custodian of 14 national historic landmarks. What’s more, all national cemeteries and the majority of our medical centers are among VA’s hundreds of historic properties. VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction (OALC) Historic Preservation Office ensures that VA programs comply with federal requirements to preserve these resources.
Managing historic places and other heritage assets requires us to strike a delicate balance between respect for the past and commitment to the future. For VA, the challenge is to provide the world-class health care and other benefits that Veterans and their families have earned while avoiding unnecessary damage to buildings, sites and other assets that represent our heritage.
As part of our concerted effort to preserve these historic resources, I serve on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). The ACHP is an independent government agency which promotes the preservation, enhancement and sustainable use of our nation’s diverse historic properties. As a member of the council, I have the opportunity to make recommendations regarding historical preservation to the president, Congress and heads of federal agencies on how best to use these resources to support our Veterans.
A growing body of research shows that heritage is important to health – that maintaining a thoughtful relationship with our past is a healthy human condition. At VA, we are working to keep that relationship alive and vibrant for our Veterans and communities, while delivering services in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
As the lands VA administers contain many ancient and historic archaeological sites and places of cultural importance, VA’s capital asset managers, planners, and facility manager’s work with Veterans’ organizations, historic preservation authorities and local communities to decide how lands and buildings entrusted to VA should be used to best serve our Veterans. These decisions often involve modifying buildings and land – in some cases even demolishing the former and greatly altering the latter. Throughout this process we are in transparent consultation with Veterans organizations, historic preservation authorities and the communities within which VA facilities operate.
The NHPA is aimed at keeping our heritage as a living part of modern life. Under the NHPA, VA continues to renovate buildings and repurpose lands to accommodate programs and provide services to better the lives of Veterans and their families.
For more information on historic preservation at VA and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, visit these links: