DescriptionMarsh Creek Settlement was founded between two low ridges just north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the 1780s. Renamed Gettysburg in honor of Gen. James Gettys, the town grew quickly after being incorporated in 1806. Its square, at the crossroads of four major highways and several secondary roads, was a stopping point for travelers. This strategic location led to the town's involvement in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Though the battlefield is the main draw for visitors, there are several reasons to venture downtown. On Lincoln Square, formed from Baltimore, Chambersburg, Carlisle and York streets, you'll find buildings from the Civil War era, including the David Wills House, where President Lincoln was a guest the evening before he delivered his Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863. Outside the building is a statue entitled “ Return Visit” depicting Lincoln pointing toward the house and standing with a man dressed in late 20th-century attire who is reading a copy of the Gettysburg Address.
Not far from the Wills House is the restored Historic Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station at 35 Carlisle St. Original construction on the Italianate-style building was completed in 1859. During the battle of Gettysburg, it served as a hospital, and a few months later it was where Lincoln arrived in and departed from Gettysburg, but there is no proof that he ever actually went inside the station. There is proof, however, that he visited Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. The present building was built in 1963, but it contains the original pew, now marked with a plaque, in which Lincoln sat when he attended a patriotic service after the cemetery dedication. President and Mrs. Eisenhower were later members of the church and a plaque marks their pew as well.
Next to the railroad station is the Majestic Theater, built in 1925 in the Colonial Revival style and used for vaudeville shows and presentations of silent films. The interior boasts exquisite detail, from its custom-woven wool carpet to its pressed tin ceiling. Today films are shown and live performances are given. Two additional cinemas were added, and each was designed to have a 1950s look. For schedule information phone (717) 337-8200.
The small town is also home to the 200-acre campus of Gettysburg College, a liberal arts school with nearly 2,600 students. It is affiliated with the Lutheran faith and has its roots in abolitionist principles. Antislavery theologian Samuel Simon Schmucker founded the school—originally called Pennsylvania College—in 1832, and the institution eventually moved into Pennsylvania Hall, which was on land provided by abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, who assisted in the Underground Railroad and began to establish American civil rights as a member of Congress. Pennsylvania Hall was used as a hospital during and after the battle. Another noteworthy building on campus is the admissions office, named Eisenhower House for the former president who served on the college's board of trustees and wrote his memoirs in the building.
In early July, Gettysburg Civil War Heritage Days features living-history encampments, reenactments, a book and paper show, a collectors' show, band concerts and a Civil War lecture series throughout Gettysburg and the Adams County area.
Visitor InfoDestination Gettysburg 1195 Baltimore Pike Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center GETTYSBURG, PA 17325. Phone:(717)334-6274 or (800)337-5015
Self-guiding toursSightseeing excursions include a 14-block walking tour past 90 restored buildings. Driving tours include a 36-mile tour of the surrounding valley, and a 40-mile driving tour that explores East Cavalry Field, Victorian New Oxford and Early American East Berlin. Free brochures describing these tours are available from the Destination Gettysburg Information Center.
ShoppingGettysburg shops lining Steinwehr Avenue and Baltimore, Chambersburg, Carlisle and York streets feature an assortment of antiques, books, collectibles, souvenirs and other specialty items. There also are more than a dozen art galleries.
Farmers markets are held downtown Saturdays 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and Thursdays 2-6 p.m. from late April through late October.
The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg, US 15 and SR 97, features a movie theater and dozens of stores, including Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Van Heusen, in a village setting.
Things to SeeDavid Wills House