Gettysburg grew on the site of a farm belonging to Samuel Gettys which was part of the Marsh Creek Settlement, an area first purchased from the Iroquois Indians by the family of William Penn. It was Samuel’s middle son, James, who purchased a 116-acre slice of the 381-acre farmstead and by 1786 he had laid out 210 lots around his home (at today’s Race Horse Alley Parking Plaza).
Gettys was not merely a land speculator. He had an active interest in community affairs and served as burgess, town clerk, sheriff, treasurer and a state legislator. During the War of 1812 he was a brigadier general in the local militia. On March 18, 1815, James Gettys died at the age of 56, within a week of the deaths of his mother and his wife.
By this time the town he founded was a thriving community; it became a crossroads town for the developing farms carved out by Scots-irish and German settlers. The bustling new town was selected as the Adams County seat in 1800 and by 1806, when Gettysburg incorporated as a borough, over 80 houses appeared on the tax rolls.
Gettysburg’s trajectory as a typical county seat and market town took a dramatic detour on July 1, 1863 when the Union Army of the Potomac, 92,000 men under General George Meade, clashed by chance with the invading Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, 70,000 troops led by General Robert E. Lee. Fighting raged for three days over 25 square miles around Gettysburg, culminating in a desperate Confederate charge across an open field into the center of the Union line under deadly fire. When the disastrous charge ended, the South’s ranks were shattered and the ultimate outcome of the Civil War was never in doubt again. Lee had pressed the attack onto Northern soil and had been repulsed. It was his last major offensive of the Civil War. More men fought and more men died at Gettysburg than in any battle before or since on North American soil.
The town survived the battle mostly intact. it wasn’t long before the agricultural economy sprinkled with light industry such as carriage- and wagon-making was humming again. But as important anniversaries of the battle ticked off over the years, veterans began returning and America’s most famous battlefield became speckled with 1,4000 monuments, statues and markers. The Gettysburg economy shifted to tourism. A century later, when departing President Dwight Eisenhower decided to settle in Gettysburg - the first house he had ever owned - people had another reason to come visit.
Our walking tour of what bills itself as “The Most Famous Small Town In America” will begin where Abraham Lincoln stepped off a train on November 18, 1863, arriving in Gettysburg to dedicate a national cemetery and say a few, a very few, words - only 256 in fact...
Gettysburg Railroad Station
35 Carlisle Street
In the summer of 1858, The Gettysburg Railroad Company acquired a one-half acre lot from John H. McClellan, who owned what is now the Gettysburg Hotel. Three buildings were to be built on the property: a passenger station, engine house and freight station. Initial plans noted that the passenger station would cost $2,070. The station, built in the Italianate style with arched windows, low-pitched roofs with eaves and decorative brackets, was completed and began issuing tickets in May 1859. The building was technically a headhouse, as it was the western terminus of the railroad line. It was here that President Abraham Linclon arrived on November 18, 1863 for the dedication of the Soldiers’National Cemetery.
WALK SOUTH ON CARLISLE STREET TOWARDS THE CENTER OF TOWN.
25 Carlisle Street
The Majestic Theater opened in Gettysburg in 1925 as the largest vaudeville and silent movie theater in south-central Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, the theater gained worldwide attention when President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower regularly attended performances. But time passed, the building changed hands and lost its original brilliance. In 1992 Gettysburg College purchased the theater and partnered with the state and the Greater Adams County community to rehabilitate the theater. $16 million later the renovated 60,000-square-foot Majestic Performing Arts and Cinema Center is a reminder of the days when a town’s movie palace was the jewel of its Main Street. Black-and-white photos of the original 1925 theater were used to recreate details including the chandeliers and carpet. The ceiling of the main theater, which seats more than 800 people, includes 1,500 pieces of pressed tin that were removed by hand, numbered and sent to a restoration company in New York. One-of-a-kind grand curtains of red and gold flank the stage. The main theater also features massive columns, original stained-glass exit signs atop doorways, an art gallery, a patron’s lounge, a balcony lobby and a grand staircase. Two smaller movie theaters are decorated in 1950s-era style and include cuddle seats. The building also houses a rehearsal hall, a dance studio, flexible space and large dressing rooms.
I Lincoln Square
In 1797, James Scott built Scott’s Tavern on what is now Lincoln Square, Gettysburg’s historic town center. A former York County sheriff, William McClellan, acquired the tavern in 1809 and renamed it the Indian Queen. After 1846 it was called the McClellan House for its owners, the McClellan brothers. In the 1890s, a new owner replaced the old structure with an imposing building that he christened the Hotel Gettysburg, and so it remained through most of the 20th century. By the early 1900s, the hotel boasted electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold baths and a fine restaurant. The hotel became part of a temporary White House in 1955 while President Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack at Gettysburg. In 1964, Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, were the Hotel Gettysburg’s last guests before the owner closed its doors. The building, a victim of changes in postwar America’s traveling habits, stood empty until a fire ravaged it in 1983. Through the initiative of Gettysburg College, the hotel was carefully restored in cooperation with the Historic Architectural Review Board. Opened in 1991 as the Best Western Gettysburg Hotel, the grand new building faithfully recaptures its historic past.
8 Lincoln Square, at southeast corner of York Street
The home of Gettysburg attorney David Wills, built in 1814, is the most famous building in Gettysburg. Wills is often given credit for hatching the idea of the Soldier’s National Cemetery, for proposing that Pennsylvania provide, “...a common burial ground for the Union dead.” President Abraham Lincoln was the overnight guest of David Wills one the eve of the dedication of the cemetery and it is assumed he polished and rehearsed the brief text of his Gettysburg Address during his stay int he house. “ In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12, 2009, the David Wills House opened to the public as a museum.
TURN LEFT ON YORK STREET.
11 York Street
Look up a see an artillery projectile protruding from the bricks just above the beltcourse. The Tyson brothers operated a photographic studio here during the war.
Nicholas Codori House
44 York Street
The Nicholas Codori House, crafted of brown fieldstone, is the oldest occupied house in Gettysburg. It was built in 1786 by Michael Hoke; Codori purchased it from the Hoke family for $1600. Nicholas Codori had 11 children and a thriving business so he purchased the property on either side of the house, building a large carriage house at the back of the east side and adding his meat market on the west side. The Codoris hid in the basement of the house during the Battle of Gettysburg, when the street fighting occurred in the town on July 1, 1863, bullets entered their home above them. For months after the battle the house served as the Catholic chapel since St. Francis Xavier, the Codori’s Catholic church, was full of wounded soldiers. The Codori family continued to live in the house until 1967, or for 124 years.
northeast corner of York and Stratton streets
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Eddie Plank was born 10 years following the Civil War on his family’s farm north of Gettysburg. Pitching mostly for the Philadelphia Athletics, Plank would eventually become the first major league southpaw to win 300 games. After retiring, Plank opened an automobile garage on this corner in 1923. Three years later, he died from a stroke at the young age of fifty.
TURN RIGHT ON STRATTON STREET.
Gettysburg United Church of Christ
60 East High Street, at northwest corner of Stratton Street
The original German Reformed Church located here in 1814 served as a “Union brick church” with the town’s Lutheran congregation until 1848. The current building, erected in 1851, was newly refurbished at the time of the battle. It became a hospital under fire, opened by Dr. Abraham Stout at the urging of his Confederate captors. For several days surgeons worked at operating tables in the “lecture room.” Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed in the fighting, is buried in the churchyard.
TURN RIGHT ON HIGH STREET.
north side of High Street
The High Street, or “Common,” School was Gettysburg’s first consolidated public school building. prior to its erection in 1857 classes were held in different buildings around town, often the home of the teacher. Samuel Sloan provided the town with an early example of the Italianate style, which was to become the most popular style in Gettysburg, with his design of this building. Like most of the town’s public facilities it was pressed into use as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. It would soon house Union and Confederate casualties on separate floors.
Adams County Prison
59 East High Street
As part of the deal to establish Gettysburg as the county seat the Getty family donated this land for a county prison. A two-story bastille-like building was erected in 1851 to replace the original detention center. On July 2, 1863. Confederate General Robert E. Lee held a war council in the building. Following the battle, the prison was utilized by the Union Army provost marshal to retain soldiers and civilians charged with violating martial law. In 1889 the County enlarged the front of the building to three stories and continued its use until 1948. The county library moved in for the next 40 years and most recently it has served as a municipal office building.
TURN LEFT ON BALTIMORE STREET AND WALK UP THE EAST SIDE OF THE ROAD.
Gettysburg Presbyterian Church
208 Baltimore Street
The first Presbyterian church in the borough of Gettysburg was erected in 1813 at the corner of North Washington and Railroad Streets. The congregation moved to the present location in 1842. The original building consisted only of a sanctuary without the vestibule. During and immediately following the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the church, along with many other public buildings in town, was converted into a temporary hospital. On November 19, 1863, four months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to take part in the dedication of the National Cemetery. At five o’clock in the afternoon, following the morning ceremonies where he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln attended a patriotic meeting in this church. He was accompanied by John Burns, a local patriot, and left shortly before the conclusion of the meeting to return to Washington. The seats of President Lincoln and John Burns are marked with a bronze plaque. Since the time of the Civil War, a considerable number of changes have been made to the church building. The first church school building was added to the rear of the sanctuary in 1879. The present Christian education unit was erected in 1932. All of the pews except the Lincoln pew were replaced. The present church building was erected in 1963 and contains the original rafters and dimensions, and simple decor of the building that was replaced. On February 1, 1963, President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower became members of the church. The pew President Eisenhower occupied was so marked with a plaque. The church also has an Eisenhower Lounge containing prints of paintings and memorabilia of the late President.
Jennie Wade Birthplace
242 Baltimore Street
This small frame house, birthplace of the only civilian to die in three day of horrific fighting in Gettysburg, is typical of the working class housing found in the town during the mid-19th century.
Georgia Wade McClellan House
548 Baltimore Street
The story of Jennie Wade, Gettysburg’s only civilian killed in the battle, is recounted in this restored house, riddled with more than 200 bullet holes. During the battle Jennie and her mother were visiting the home of sister Georgia Wade McClellan. On the morning of July 3, a stray bullet passed through two doors and struck the young woman while she was baking bread for convalescing troops. 20-year old Jennie Wade was the fiance of Corporal Johnston H. “Jack” Skelly. Skelly was wounded in the Battle of Carter’s Woods near Winchester, Virginia. He died July 12, 1863, without ever knowing of Jennie’s fate.
CROSS THE STREET AND WALK BACK TOWARDS LINCOLN SQUARE ON THE WEST SIDE OF BALTIMORE STREET.
401 Baltimore Street
Now a bid-and-breakfast and tavern, this house was one of many used by Confederate sharpshooters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Over 100 bullet-scarred bricks attest to the desperate attempts to dislodge these deadly snipers.
309 Baltimore Street
George Washington Shriver was 23 when he paid $290 for a lot of ground on south Baltimore Hill in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In addition to building his new home, George would also establish his new business - Shriver’s Saloon & Ten- Pin Alley. The saloon would be located in the cellar while the two lane ten-pin bowling alley would be built in an enclosed building just behind the house. The Shrivers were settling into their new home when the Civil War broke out in April 1861. In September, 1861, George mustered into Co. C of Cole’s Cavalry. When cannon fire erupted in town in July 1863 Hettie shriver took her family to her parent’s farm for safety. When she returned she discovered her house had been occupied by Confederate soldiers; two sharpshooters had been killed in an upstairs garret. Today the house operates as a museum dedicated to the civilian experience during the Civil War.
Prince of Peace Episcopal Church
20 West High Street, at southwest corner of Baltimore Street
The cornerstone of the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church was laid out on July 2, 1888, for the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The church is a battlefield memorial - inside the large tower survivors from both armies placed more than 130 plaques in memory of their fallen comrades.
Adams County Library
140 Baltimore Street
The impressive Neoclassical building that houses the library was originally built as the Gettysburg Post Office.
126 Baltimore Street
This is the 1863 site of the Compiler newspaper office, Gettysburg’s weekly “voice” of the Democratic party, and the home of its outspoken publisher Henry Stahle. During the Battle of Gettysburg Stahle took into his home a badly wounded Union officer and persuaded a Confederate surgeon to come and perform a life-saving leg amputation. This humanitarian act led to Stahle’s temporary incarceration at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore for aiding the enemy to capture a Union officer, a baseless charge of disloyalty concocted by a local Republican for political revenge. The breech of the cannon “Penelope,” is seen protruding from the pavement nearby. Traditionally, “Penelope” was fired in Gettysburg’s streets to celebrate Democratic election victories but was abruptly silenced in 1855 when an over-charge of powder ruptured her barrel. Fittingly the old political cannon was memorialized in front of the “voice” of the Democratic party, buried muzzle up in the pavement.
Adams County Court House
117 Baltimore Street, at southwest corner of Middle Street
Adams county chose Gettysburg as county seat in 1800. In 1859, this building was erected to replace a courthouse on the square adjacent to Thaddeus Stevens’ law offices. The first court had met in the home of James Gettys’ mother, Isabella. On June 26,1863, Confederate troops occupied the new courthouse. Five days later, the battle of Gettysburg created another role for the courthouse, as a hospital. The Court House was originally painted gray; the paint has since been removed. The building continues to serve as a courthouse.
Adams County National Bank
16 Lincoln Square
The Adams County National Bank was organized in 1857; this Beaux Arts anchor on Lincoln Square was built in 1919.
TURN LEFT ON CHAMBERSBURG STREET.
20 Chambersburg Street
The new Italianate style was popular in Gettysburg just prior to the Civil War; theiwell-preserved example of the art features the finest Italianate style doorway in town.
James Getty Hotel
27 Chambersburg Street
James Gettys, the founder of Gettysburg, sold his first plot of land in 1787 to John Troxell, Sr. In 1804, Mr. Troxell opened the Sign of the Buck tavern and roadhouse here to accommodate those traveling to the western frontier of Pennsylvania and beyond. As Gettysburg became the county seat, this establishment grew to house more travelers. By 1863, the town of Gettysburg was booming with 2,400 residents and many businesses. The hotel, then known as the Union Hotel, served as a hospital for the wounded soldiers after the battle. By April of 1888, Gettysburg was a stopping place for all to see. Everyone wanted to walk upon the battlefields of the Civil War. The veterans returned for the 25th Anniversary of the battle and this establishment, then named the City Hotel, readied for the celebration by expanding to accommodate 250 guests. The James Gettys Hotel closed in the 1960s and was used as an apartment building and then an American Youth Hostel. In March of 1995, the building was turned back into the James Gettys Hotel.
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
30 Chambersburg Street
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest structure in Gettysburg continuously used as a Church. It was founded in 1835 to be the English-speaking Lutheran Church in Gettysburg (St. James Lutheran Church, in existence since 1789, conducted its services in German), and to be the primary assembly hall for the Lutheran Theological Seminary and for Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) College. It was often referred to as “The College Church,” and hosted numerous graduation ceremonies and other meetings for the College and Seminary. The structure was one of the first hospitals established during the Battle of Gettysburg, and at its peak accommodated approximately 150 wounded soldiers.
100 Chambersburg Street
This imposing example of Beaux Arts architecture dates to 1916.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO LINCOLN SQUARE AND TURN LEFT TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT, ONE BLOCK TO THE NORTH.