Skip to main content

Gettysburg Redux

March 2023
1min read

A brand new visitors center at Gettysburg is open for business

Visitors don’t get a good look at the new facility at Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg National Military Park until they get close—and even then they could mistake it for an exceptionally large farm complex. That’s no accident. The design and location of the visitor center is in step with the park’s commitment to rehabilitate the 6,000-acre battlefield and surrounding area so it more closely resembles the landscape of July 1863 when the momentous battle took place.

Rehabilitation has involved everything from cutting down or planting trees, and building split-rail fences, to building an unobtrusive new center and making plans to demolish the previous facility, a dilapidated 1920s building that occupied land once a prominent part of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge. By fall the round Cyclorama Building nearby, the former home for Paul Philippoteaux’s epic 360-degree battle painting, should also be gone, although preservationists have sued to save it. This new preservation strategy claimed the observation tower in 2003.

The mammoth 130,000-square-foot center is a history lover’s paradise, complete with a museum, two theaters, a computer room, educational facilities, bookstore and cafeteria as well as park offices and storage areas. The visitor’s experience will be quote different than before, says park spokesperson Katie Lawhon, who remembers the old facilities as a “hodge podge.” Twelve galleries in the new museum not only guide visitors efficiently through the events of the bloody three-day battle, but “tell the story of the battle within the context of the causes and consequences of the American Civil War.”

While the center opened in April, the official grand opening will come in September with the unveiling of “The Battle of Gettysburg,” Philippoteaux’s newly restored Cyclorama painting. The 337-foot-long canvas, originally completed in 1884, depicts the Union defense against Pickett’s Charge on the battle’s final day. In its new home the Cyclorama will include a recreation of the three-dimensional diorama of terrain and battle debris that originally ran along the painting’s bottom, creating an even more realistic illusion of combat.

In other news, the park recently acquired the 80-acre George Spangler Farm. Located behind the Union lines, the farm served as a staging place for logistical support during the battle. Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, mortally wounded during Pickett’s Charge, died of his wounds after the battle at the hospital inside one of the farm buildings. In his painting, Philippoteaux portrayed Armistead on horseback, although the general led his men on foot. Chalk it up to artistic license trumping historical fact—something the people who work in Gettysburg’s new visitor center don’t want to have happen very often. (Contact:

Tom Huntington

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "Spring/Summer 2008"

Authored by: Tom Huntington

A brand new visitors center at Gettysburg is open for business

Authored by: Newt Gingrich

On the 25th anniversary of two famous Reagan speeches, the former Speaker of the House asks why we haven’t learned more from the 40th president

Authored by: Richard Brookhiser

Sharp business skills ensured the first president’s phenomenal success

Authored by: John Lukacs

The world-shaping relationship between these two giants got off to a rocky start

Authored by: A. E. Dick Howard

The Founding Fathers’ belief in the “law of the land” derived from a 13th-century document recently donated to the National Archives

Authored by: John F. Ross

The largest army ever assembled in North America at the time attacked the French at New York’s Fort Carillon . . . with disastrous results

Authored by: James P. Ronda

They created towns and became the center of Western life, enabling wheat, cattle, and minerals to flow out of the West

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.