1826 – 1903
Lewis B. Gunckel was an attorney, state Senator, federal Congressman, and community advocate who was responsible for making Dayton the site of one of the first National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS). While serving in the state Senate, Gunckel pushed for a State Soldiers’ Home in Ohio. This action caused President Lincoln to name Gunckel to the Board for the new Soldiers’ Homes, where Gunckel secured Dayton as the location for the Central Branch and the national headquarters. By 1884, the Dayton Soldiers’ Home was caring for more than 7,000 Civil War veterans and was the largest complex of its kind in the world. The facility included greenhouses and gardens complete with alligators, deer, and bears; a nightly band concert; workshops where residents were taught a trade; and the Home Chapel, made of limestone quarried by Civil War veterans. In the 1880s, the Central Branch of the Solders’ Home was the most popular travelers’ resort west of the Alleghenies, visited by hundreds of thousands annually. In addition to his essential role in the formation of the NHDVS (now the Veterans Administration), this community-minded man helped create many local charitable organizations.