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March 12, 2015

New State Veterans Home taking shape

The new $41.2 million Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home, now under construction, will ensure that Hot Springs’ 125-year tradition of care for military veterans and their spouses will continue for many years to come.

The new facility, scheduled to open in 2016, will be a 133,000 two-story building with 52 skilled nursing beds on the first floor and 48 residential living beds on the second floor. It is designed to provide a home-like environment. Home-style furnishings and warm, welcoming colors will give the facility a less institutional look.

Residents will have access to physical therapy, speech therapy, fitness, recreational opportunities, workshops and an auditorium. The biomass boiler system will use local wood chips as a fuel source which will reduce the annual fuel cost.

Hot Springs’ tradition of caring for veterans goes back before South Dakota became a state. In 1889, the Dakota Territorial Legislature, in its last session before South Dakota statehood, passed a bill establishing the Dakota Soldiers Home in Hot Springs. The cornerstone was laid Nov. 11, 1889, just nine days after statehood.

The site chosen for the Soldiers Home was a 193-acre tract on the west edge of Hot Springs, a city long known for its healing waters, temperate climate and forested hillsides. The city was once dotted with hotels and spas, where tourists came to soak in the warm springs to treat a variety of ailments.

The nearby Battle Mountain Sanitarium, which is now part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Black HIlls Health Care System, was built in 1907 to treat soldiers from the Civil War and the Spanish American War for lung or respiratory problems such as tuberculosis.

Michael J. Fitzmaurice, for whom the State Veterans Home was named in 1998, was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner from South Dakota. He earned his medal during the Vietnam War.

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