Gettysburg (population 7,500), site of one of the Civil War’s most pivotal battles, will forever be associated with that epic struggle. But Gettysburg is rich in historic properties that reflect its history both before and after the Civil War.
Gettysburg was founded in 1786 when James Getty laid out a town square and 210 lots adjacent to his father’s tavern and farmstead. Located at a crossroads, the town became a rural center along a transportation corridor between south central Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland. Steady growth made Gettysburg the town of choice for county seat when Adams County was created in 1800. In the following decades, several educational and religious institutions were established, and the agricultural economy was augmented by light industry. In 1858, the Gettysburg Railroad was extended into town, cementing the community’s role as a key provider of goods for the Adams County area and northwestern Maryland.
Many of Gettysburg’s historic buildings bore witness to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. Often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy,” the battle was a critical Union victory that repulsed the Army of Northern Virginia’s incursion into northern territory. Today, much of the battlefield is part of Gettysburg National Military Park.
The borough of Gettysburg and the National Park Service have partnered with other organizations to develop the Gettysburg Interpretive Plan, which promotes a seamless interpretive experience between the park and the community while fostering community economic vitality. In accordance with that plan, the historic railroad station where President Lincoln arrived prior to the Gettysburg Address has undergone a $3 million rehabilitation and will reopen as a downtown interpretive center. The Wills House on the town square, where Lincoln spent the night before delivering the Gettysburg Address, has been purchased by the National Park Service and will become a Lincoln museum.
Also contributing to the revitalization of the historic downtown is the renovation of the Majestic Theater as part of a performing arts center owned by Gettysburg College. The Majestic opened in 1925 as the largest vaudeville and silent movie theater in south-central Pennsylvania. A $16 million rehabilitation of the building was completed in 2005.
About two-thirds of the borough of Gettysburg is included in a local historic district overseen by the Historic Architectural Review Board. Gettysburg is a Certified Local Government and has an active Main Street program.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.