Returning to 1863 Farm with Role in Gettysburg Battle Reopens during Restoration

By Barnes, Tom | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 27, 2013 | Go to article overview

Returning to 1863 Farm with Role in Gettysburg Battle Reopens during Restoration


Barnes, Tom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- West Virginians Don and Claudia Harmon marveled at the renovated stone "summer kitchen" on the George Spangler farm, which was the scene of fierce fighting during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

"This farm is just so great. It's amazing," said Mr. Harmon, wearing a bright gold-and-blue Mountaineer jacket and baseball hat. "I really enjoy history and admire the craftsmanship that builders used back then. It's intricate and well done -- very impressive."

On Friday, the Harmons were among 15 people on the first bus that brought visitors to walk around the Spangler Farm, 80 acres on the eastern edge of the Gettysburg National Military Park, 2 miles south of the park's Visitors Center and Museum.

The farm, where wheat and oats were growing in the fields when the battle raged between Northern and Southern forces July 1-3, was bought in 2008 for $1.8 million by the Gettysburg Foundation, a nonprofit that works with the National Park Service to maintain and improve the battlefield and promote tourism.

The foundation and park service are working to restore the battlefield to the way it looked that July as they get ready for several million people to visit for the 150th anniversary of the battle this year.

The four buildings on the property -- a large barn made of stone and wood, the Spangler family's stone house, the summer kitchen next to the house and a small wooden smokehouse used to preserve meats -- were in terrible shape when the property was purchased in 2008, said Randy Grimsley, a Gettysburg Foundation volunteer and guide. The restoration work will take another four years or so and cost several million more.

Steel cables had to be installed inside the old barn or it likely would have collapsed, Mr. Grimsley said. Red-painted plywood has been erected on much of the outside of the barn until a new wooden exterior is finished. Pointing with new mortar will go between the large stones of the barn. He said that when the foundation first acquired the old barn, 4 feet of manure, topped by weeds, covered the floor.

"We also had to rip a shed off the side of the barn and a nearby shed used to slaughter deer because they weren't part of the farm during the Battle of Gettysburg," he said.

So far, only the summer kitchen has been fully renovated. An old metal roof was replaced with wooden shingles, the interior floor replaced, and the exterior stones were repointed. The Harmons and others on the first tour were impressed.

"It's so beautiful and historic," Ms. Harmon said. "We live near Morgantown and we've been to Gettysburg before, but we've never seen this farm, so it's great to be among the first people to visit here. …

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