EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio History Connection. Ashland Source has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share content across our sites.
DAYTON -- The Grotto Gardens has been the site of a national center for veterans’ services since Abraham Lincoln approved the establishment of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
The historic campus recently achieved National Historic Landmark status, one of only 73 such listings in all of Ohio.
As early as 1868 a resident veteran, Frank Mundt, began the landscaping for gardens around those facilities to provide a home-like environment and therapeutic benefit to the residents. By the turn of the 20th century the gardens, maintained by the residents, had become quite elaborate.
Starting with the Grotto, created on the site of a former quarry, the gardens came to cover almost 400 acres. In addition to the Grotto with its stone arch they included mineral springs, ponds, and formal gardens. The gardens came to be not only beneficial to the veterans but also popular with thousands of annual visitors.Da
Over the years the state of the Grotto gardens declined as funding pressures reduced the maintenance of the gardens to lower and lower priority. This decline was halted in 2011 by the Dayton VA Medical Center with the encouragement and support of the American Veterans Heritage Center, Inc., a group dedicated to the preservation of the historic Soldiers Home campus now occupied by the Medical Center.
The removal of heavy overgrowth uncovered historic paths, walls, structures, and gardens that have been repaired and replanted.
In addition to the restoration of the gardens by the Medical Center, the American Veterans Heritage Center developed a partnership with the Ohio State University, Montgomery County Extension Service -- Master Gardener to actively maintain and enhance the Grotto gardens.
With this collaboration the historic Grotto gardens have once again become a restful and enjoyable destination for veterans and their families as well as the public. These gardens also support the mission of the American Veterans Heritage Center to preserve the history and personal legacies of American veterans inspiring the community to support and serve its veterans.