Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Battle Of Gettysburg Hits 150 Years

Coming from the West Coast, I've learned that spacious is a word best reserved for older hotels back East. The Gettysburg Hotel is one of those, reasonably comfortable with an aging coziness. It was built in 1890, but the owners prefer to point to the 1797 establishment of the tavern it replaced.

Still, the tavern and the hotel that replaced it really have seen history, most notably after retired sheriff William McClellan bought it in 1809. It was this tavern named the Indian Queen and then renamed the McClellan House, that witnessed Union and Confederate troops swarm the town and then President Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address across the street at the Wills House a few months later.

Much later, the hotel would also accommodate another President. When President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Gettysburg, he used the hotel as a temporary White House. He and his wife were also among the last to stay before it closed down for almost three decades.

The Gettysburg Hotel is among the historic stops in Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Hotel
When the Gettysburg Hotel reopened, it was owned by Best Western, which tried to strike a balance between catering to modern travelers and maintaining some historic relevance. It falls somewhere in the middle, where it mostly wins with Centuries on the Square and McClellan's Tavern.

Centuries on the Square is somewhat reminiscent of the past for casual fine dining. The tavern is historic too, but not because of its namesake. The Van Tromp Bar was imported from England, which means authentic is more likely at Gettysburg College's Majestic Theater.

This theater originally opened its doors as the largest vaudeville and silent movie theater in south central Pennsylvania, as an annex to the Gettysburg Hotel. It has even been the unlikely site of several world premieres, including Federico Felini's Satyricon in 1970 and Ted Turner's Gettysburg in 1993.

Although restored 10 years ago to host live performances and feature films, the latter was at risk when Hollywood notified theaters, including independents, that everything would be converted to digital. Fortunately for this theater, a major fundraiser saved it.

Movies and theaters in Downtown Gettysburg aren't the only draw. Most people visit because the summer of 1863 transformed Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, forever. Over the course of three days, July 1-3, the Battle Of Gettysburg became the largest battle of the American Civil War and a major turning point as it marked the end of Gen. Robert E. Lee's advance into the North.

Today, Americans still look on the expansive memorial in remembrance and with reverence. The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties (dead, wounded, and missing), two to three times the amount of casualties suffered by Allied and German troops on the first day of D-Day during World War II. And this year marks an especially unique historic significance.

The 150th Anniversary Of The Battle Of Gettysburg. 

Civil War
Every year, re-enactments are held in July, commemorating the 150th anniversary of this historic battle. This year, between July 4-7, re-enactors from across the nation and around the world are gathering to create the largest such events ever staged.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee is expecting thousands more than the 13,000 who attended the 145th anniversary. These men and women will reenact several days of historic encampments and battles on 1,000 acres of farmland. Preparations began five years ago.

While the climax of the 150th anniversary runs from June 28 to July 7, Gettysburg celebrates its historic significance throughout the year. Every weekend from April to October, various places host living history encampments such as the American Civil War Museum, General Lee's Headquarters, and Gettysburg National Military Park.

Along with these historic sites, Gettysburg has several additions planned to open this year and through 2015, such as the completion of the $15 million Seminary Ridge Museum renovation (complete July1). There are many other expansions planned as well, as Gettysburg will also highlight Lincoln’s famous speech during the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address in November.

Gettysburg Hits A Historic Milestone At 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Although my last visit to Gettysburg was five years ago, I can't think of a better place to pick on President Lincoln's birthday as Gettysburg readies for its 150th anniversary. While accommodations are likely to be tight, even with the recent addition of the Federal Pointe Inn, the anniversary is likely to be unforgettable as people find this location as a place of healing as much as a historic battle site.

Among the first places to check out are the Gettysburg Hotel (where I stayed), the Quality Inn at General Lee's Headquarters, or the James Gettys Hotel. For a complete overview of travel accommodations in or near Gettysburg, start by comparing specials against top travel deals at Expedia.com. Many won't be modern, but most make up for any inconveniences with charm and friendliness.
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