But, as School Committeeman Rich Maronski recalled, Scottie Holden did climb the Soldiers’ Home water tower and it was the stuff of legend growing up in Chelsea.
“The biggest news with the tower as a kid was when Scottie Holden actually climbed it,” said Maronski. “It was the talk of the town for more than a week. I grew up beside this tower all my life. It’s the thing I look at when I’m on an airplane. I know when I’m leaving and I know when I’m home by looking at that tower.”
His remembrance was but one of many that were shared at a special farewell to the Soldiers’ Home water tower last Friday, Nov. 30, in the shadow of the tower, which was constructed in 1958 and will come down in the next few weeks. It has to come down to make way for the $199 million Community Living Center that will provide long-term care for veterans in a modern, home-like setting. Currently, the Quigley Hospital provides great care, but it is laid out in open wards, which are no longer acceptable.
“Today is an opportunity to say farewell to the water tower that served as a beacon or a landmark to so many in and around Chelsea,” said state Veterans Secretary Francisco Urena. “This is a bittersweet moment, but this is also a happy moment for the veterans at the Soldiers Home who will reap the benefit of the largest investment ever in the Commonwealth for long-term veterans care. It’s going to be a beacon of care for veterans across the Commonwealth now.”
Supt. Cheryl Poppe said CBI Corp. put up the six-legged water tower in 1958, and the purpose was to help the water supply and water pressure at the home. Over time, however, the tower became less useful and a permanent pump station was implemented in 2011. The tower was decommissioned at that time, but allowed to stay in place. Over time, it has deteriorated and vandals have painted it.
“It was a noticeable part of the Chelsea skyline, but now our Community Living Center will serve as a special vision on the horizon as it will serve our veterans for the decades to come,” she said.
Tom Kasiecki said he has watched the tower all his life.
“I watched this tower go up when I was a kid in 1958,” he said. “I sat there at my window over there and watched them build it. Now, as a senior citizen, I am going to sit over there and watch them demolish it.”
Former City Councillor Matt Frank said he is going to miss the tower, and that it is special to him, but he also said he will choose to remember it now as a place of hope and rest for those who have served their country – as it was for his grandfather when he was there.
“That’s what I’m going to remember moving forward is we’re going to have a brand new facility for the veterans,” he said. “When I look up and see the skyline without the tower, I will be sad. I will miss the tower because I’ve had it there all my life. It’s always been there. However, when I look up and don’t see it, I’m going to think of the wonderful care that the veterans are receiving there.”
Added Barbara Richards, “It’s going to be very hard to see it go. Whether you go by boat, train, plan or car, you can always see the tower.”
Dottie Kusmierek has lived across the street from the tower for most of her life. She said it holds a special place in the hearts of her family members. She said it will be hard to see it go, but she understands the reasoning.
“My older brother was in Vietnam and he saw the water tower when he came back home and said, ‘At last, I’m home,’” she recalled. “There are a lot of changes now in Chelsea, and a lot of them I’m not happy about. Good bye old friend and on with the new.”
Councilor Luis Tejada said he would definitely be sad to see it go, and it’s a part of the local history to him.
“It’s sad to me because New England and Greater Boston have so much history, and it’s why people are jealous of us in other parts of the country,” he said. “The tower was an historical marker for Chelsea. My generation and up recognize that certainly. Sometimes in the name of progress you must give up some things to get others.”
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower – a beloved local landmark – is slated to come down next month, and this Friday, the Soldiers’ Home is inviting everyone to its grounds to give an official good-bye to the red and white checkered symbol of Chelsea.
“The ceremony Friday is going to be very informal, but meaningful,” said Supt. Cheryl Poppe. “We’ve invited a lot of officials and the entire community. If anyone has a memory or a letter they would like to read, this would be a good time for that. This is a time for residents, staff and Soldiers’ Home residents to give the tower a farewell.”
Poppe said the tower has to be taken down due to the new $199 million Community Living Center project, which is starting construction now and will be in full building mode this spring. The tower has been a beloved symbol of Chelsea for decades since being put up in 1958. The red and white checkered tower was used to pump water, but for many more it became a symbol of the City of Chelsea – with people being able to see its ‘Chelsea Soldiers’ Home’ lettering from far and wide.
Poppe said it hasn’t been functional since 2009, and is structurally unsound now. There was no way to save it from the wrecking ball in order to build the new Center, but they do plan to commemorate it with a photo montage or a small model on the property.
“The construction company is still exploring ways to remove the tower and there are many ways,” she said. “They’re still examining things like how many layers of paint are on it and how they can safely take it down. It might now be until late in December, but we do expect it to go down soon. We wanted to make sure people had a chance to say good-bye before that happened.”
In addition, part of Malone Park will also be taken up soon by fences that will be used for construction activities and parking.
“I know I want to take my last walk around that loop before it’s not available,” said Poppe. “I’m sure others do, too.”
The Soldiers’ Home has had many scares over the years due to underfunding and the fact that the Quigley Hospital has open wards, something that was permitted in the past but no longer is.
“When it was built, you were supposed to come here, heal and then go home,” she said. “It wasn’t meant to be a home. Now, of course, people stay here and it is their home. This new Center will make it more of a home, right down to how the meals are prepared.”
Poppe said the fact that the hospital is getting a remake is a tribute to Lawrence Quigley, who advocated for years and years to get it built in the first place.
“At one point he said that the VA had done 21 surveys and 21 studies and it was time to do something,” he said. “He was trying to take care of the veterans from World War I, not even knowing his son would go to World War II and need the same services.”
She said there was quite a lot of folks who were sentimental or upset about the removal of the tower at first, but she said she believes in recent months many have seen the value of the overall project.
“The residents have a sentimentality for the tower, but at this pint they realize it is more important for veterans who need long-term care now and in the future to be served by this Community Living Center,” she said.
The farewell to the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home tower will take place on Friday, Nov. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home has officially embarked on a new face and mission to help care for veterans and their
Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Bob DeLeo lead the way in breaking ground for the new Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home this past Monday, Oct. 29. The new Center will eventually replace the Quigley Memorial Hospital. It is a state and federal project costing $199 million.
families, breaking ground Monday on a $199 million Community Living Center (CLC) that will provide modern accommodations and replace the old Quigley Memorial Hospital.
Gov. Charlie Baker joined Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and veterans of the United States Armed Forces for the groundbreaking of the new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
The current facility will continue to be fully operational, caring for 154 veterans, during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2022.
Some 65 percent of the funding for the new facility will come from the Federal government, which approved monies for the project earlier this summer.
“The new long term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will improve the quality of services and care provided to the Commonwealth’s men and women who have answered the call of duty and served our nation,” said Baker. “Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for this country, and it is our duty to care for them with honor and dignity.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo was also on hand and has been a friend to the Home for years. Gov. Baker gave credit to DeLeo for getting funding through the Legislature so that the federal application was prepared quickly.
“Having been in the Legislature 25 years now, you, Mr. Speaker, own a big piece of that and we are all extremely grateful for this work and all the work you do for veterans in the Commonwealth,” he said. “This place will be a true testament to our investment to our veterans.”
DeLeo said the Home does have a special place in his heart, and serves veterans from his district as well.
“I am so pleased this project is underway and moving forward,” he said.
In May 2017, Governor Baker HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-releases-fiscal-year-2018-capital-budget-plan” t “_blank” announced plans for a new long-term care Community Living Center, which was included in the Baker-Polito Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 capital investment plan, and in November 2017, HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-signs-bill-to-fund-new-facility-at-chelsea-soldiers-home-and-high-speed” t “_blank” signed legislation authorizing funding needed to advance the project.
The Administration has also received funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the project. The federal funding was awarded through the VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up to 65 percent of construction costs for approved projects. The Administration, with strong support from the Legislature, plans to spend approximately $70 million net of federal reimbursement on the project.
The Home has long suffered from having open wards at the Quigley, and it was a point of contention for federal authorities – as health care payments are not allowed to go to facilities with old, open wards. With funding on the line, the Home was able to secure the project funding. This will allow the Home to now have private rooms and modern facilities for the residents there.
“This facility truly is a fitting tribute to our veterans who have served our nation,” said Supt. Cheryl Poppe. “With this building construction, we honor their sacrifice…The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea is honored to serve Massachusetts veterans, and this groundbreaking reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to veterans of yesterday, today, and for generations to come.”
HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/orgs/soldiers-home-in-chelsea” t “_blank” The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home. Chelsea Soldiers’ Home currently has capacity for 136 beds for long-term care.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Friday that the state has secured approximately $70 million in federal funding for the new 154-bed Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home – federal funding that pretty much gives the green light to proceed on the project.
State leaders have made a priority of designing and funding the $199 million project, but getting the federal funding was always a crucial piece of the puzzle that had to come through.
On Friday, the Veteran’s Administration State Home Construction Grant Program announced it would provide a 65 percent reimbursement of approved construction projects, including the Soldiers’ Home.
“Our veterans have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms and we are proud to see this project move forward as we continue to provide them with great care and dignity,” said Baker. “We are grateful to the VA for their support of Massachusetts’ veterans and this funding allows us to construct a state of the art facility that will be a model for future veteran homes across the country.”
The Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will provide 154 “home-like” rooms for veterans in accordance with VA standards of design, which promotes greater accessibility, mobility, and enhanced quality of life. Services will include physical and occupational therapy, recreational activities and greater access to the outdoors. The current facility, the Quigley Memorial Long Term Care Center, will continue to be fully operational during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2021.
“We appreciate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ approval to replace the existing long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Campus,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco A. Ureña. “In addition to approving our replacement project, the VA granted the Commonwealth $129 million in matching funds.”
In May 2017, the Baker-Polito Administration announced state funding for the new long-term care facility as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget plan, and in November, Governor Baker signed legislation to fund the project.
“I am thrilled that the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will be receiving federal funding for its new Community Living Center,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “The House has been a longtime supporter of this project and, as a neighbor of the Soldiers’ Home, I have been proud to support the residents and their needs throughout my tenure in the House. This financing will allow the Soldiers’ Home to further improve and enhance the vital care that they provide our veterans.”
Governor Baker was joined at his 2018 State of the Commonwealth Address by U.S. Navy Veteran Tom Miller, who lives at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Director of Nursing Debbie Antonelli and Superintendent Cheryl Poppe to celebrate the Administration’s commitment to this necessary funding.
“This funding will allow us to provide our veterans with a long-awaited updated home that will enhance their quality of life with increased privacy and greater access to services,” said Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “Our veterans deserve the very best, and this home will complement the quality care our veterans receive here at the Soldiers’ Home. We are grateful for the support of the Baker-Polito Administration for this opportunity.”
The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home.
Boston Bruins’ famous National Anthem singer, Rene Rancourt, has spent 41 years singing before Bruins contests, and last Thursday, Jan. 11, he spent an afternoon at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home singing and entertaining residents and staff. The time was put together by the Chelsea District Court staff.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a capital bond bill on Tuesday that increases bond authorization by $244 million to support initiatives across the Commonwealth, including construction of a new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
“This bill funds critical projects across the Commonwealth, including the Last Mile broadband project and money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home renovation project,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We thank the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to updating the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home for our veterans.”
The bond legislation signed Tuesday includes $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which is expected to be partially reimbursed by the federal government pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also directs the administration to study the long-term needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.
“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the Commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”
On May 31, Gov. Baker filed egislation to address immediate capital needs statewide, including $950 million for higher education projects, $880 million for construction, renovations, and accessibility improvements at state office buildings, $700 million for health and human services facilities, $550 million for public safety facilities and $375 million for court facilities. While the legislation signed Tuesday includes authorization for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, several items from this bill remain pending.
“We are pleased to see authorization for the replacement of the Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home passed, which was proposed in our capital budget plan,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “By leveraging the use of significant federal resources to build the new facility, we optimize the value of the Commonwealth’s capital investment in this project.”
State officials made their first presentation of the proposed Community Living Center at the Soldiers’ Home, a project that will replace the Quigley Hospital and require the removal of the iconic Soldiers’ Home water tower.
The $199 million project, some 66 percent of which could be federally funded, has the makings of improving the living conditions of those in the long-term care portion of the Home – taking them from open wards that are no longer permissible to private rooms with social areas arranged in “houses.” However, to date, and through a large part of the meeting Thursday night, Aug. 3, the overall project has been overshadowed by the potential loss of the water tower.
Some residents have voiced approval for the project, but want those building it to see if they can save the tower or come up with a similar iconic structure. Other residents have started a very popular online petition to ‘Save the Chelsea Water Tower,’ and it has caught on.
On Thursday night, many of the voices of the veterans, who have yet to be heard, resonated.
“I guarantee you a few years after it’s gone…we’ll barely remember it,” said Daniel Heagan. “You’ll say, ‘I know there was a water tower there, but I don’t even remember what color it is.’ Please accept this change. It’s for the best of the veterans. Please go along with it. This is a positive change for the men and women who represented you in combat. You won’t know it’s gone in a few years.”
Tom Miller, who has lived at the Home for 11 years and is a member of the Honor Guard, said the priority is now the veterans.
“The water tower provided some great memories,” he said. “Right now the priority is to build a new Quigley Hospital. That needs to be the focus. We can always have those memories. The Historical Society will have wonderful photographs. We can have a party when it comes down to celebrate what it meant. But it has to come down.”
However, many long-time Chelsea residents said they hoped there could be a compromise.
“When I come over the Tobin Bridge and have people in the car I point to the tower and tell people that is where I live,” said School Committeeman Rich Maronski. “You can see the tower from East Boston. That’s where I live. The residents really wish if you could preserve it or move it, that would be great. The veterans health care comes first, but we wonder if there is a chance to do something.”
Councillor Matt Frank said he loves the Soldiers’ Home and all that it represents. He said he believes its time to support the veterans to get the new home, but he also said he hopes there can be some accommodation for the tower.
“Sometimes emotions do matter and I think it’s for the best of the veterans community to be visible to everyone around like they are with the tower,” he said. “You see it every day. If you lose something that’s such a visual reminder, people would drive by without knowing what this place is…My biggest fear is the Solders’ Home could be lost in the shuffle. I think we need to take (resident) emotions into account.”
Some in the audience suggested replacing it with a “ginormous” flag that could be seen from downtown Boston, as the tower is.
Francisco Urena, secretary of Veterans Affairs, led the meeting and said that they are listening to the public and the residents. Both he and Supt. Cheryl Poppe said the status quo with open wards must be replaced, as they get marked deficient frequently and could lose crucial funding.
To weigh in, the state has established an e-mail to submit comments. It is firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 600 supporters have signed an online petition at Change.org in less than a week that is aimed at saving the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower.
The petition was started last Saturday by Chelsea resident Stephanie McCusker after she read the story in the Chelsea Record about the state planning to demolish the Soldiers’ Home water tower as part of its plan to build a new Living Center to better serve the veterans in the current Quigley Memorial Hospital.
“I started the petition to save the tower because just like the Citgo sign, Dorchester tank, the Orange Dinosaur (on Rt. 1), it has meaning,” she told the Record. “The meaning is ‘home’ or ‘almost home’ because I can see the Soldiers’ Home tower… We build everything else up high, would it hurt to add another floor to the design of the new facility instead of taking down a landmark? Nothing is sacred in this city anymore. Chelsea Clock is gone. Box District is all lofts, flats and condos. All the old schools are condos and lofts. The tower makes our city what it is today. It’s a way for people to find us. I mean if people think its ugly then we can paint it.”
Apparently many from Chelsea, and those who once lived in Chelsea agree with her, enthusiastically signing the petition.
“The Chelsea water tower has been a landmark of Chelsea all my life and I think it should remain there despite all the changes in Chelsea,” said Kenneth Lewis of Chelsea on the petition. “It’s as Chelsea as Katz Bagels, City Hall and Highland Park.”
Added former Chelsea resident Juan DeJesus, now of Port Richey, FL, “The Chelsea water tower is more then just a water tower. Its a symbol to everybody that comes from that city, and I’m one of them.”
Many others chimed in as well, and by Wednesday evening, there were 640 signees to the petition. The goal for the petition is to get 1,000 signatures.
McCusker said she heard from a friend about the news of the tower coming down. The friend suggested that someone start a petition. Being a bit bummed out by the news, McCusker said she took it upon herself to start the petition.
“I just felt the need to let everyone know that I wasn’t the only one saddened by this,” she said. “I was shocked as to how many people signed the petition just the first day alone. People left comments about how they used to live here and would hate to see it go – that they still have that ‘home feeling’ when seeing it on visits. Why not try and keep some of Chelsea preserved? Chelsea is an up and coming city, but why not keep a little ‘Old Chelsea’ as we do it?”
McCusker said her personal opinion is that it would be too expensive to preserve the old tower and move it to another location on the site. She said she would prefer to see it left as it, perhaps refurbished, and become part of the new plan.
Last week, the state’s Department of Capital Assets, Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) confirmed that as part of the major Community Living Center project – which demolishes the Quigley Memorial Hospital and constructs a brand new, modern veterans living facility – the old water tower would have to come down.
The news has been viewed as a tough decision, as no one wants the tower to come down, and no one wants the veterans project to be delayed or stymied.
DCAMM officials have said, as have City officials, that they are looking at alternatives to keep some part of the tower alive.
Approximately 150 sailors sang out “Anchors Away” as they marched to the Soldier’s Home in formation on Navy Day last Tuesday, Aug. 30. Navy Day occurs every August when sailors around the country find ways to serve the communities where they are stationed. At the Soldiers’ Home, sailors cleaned stairwells, mopped floors and painted walls.