PLANS ARE SHOWN FOR AN IMPROVED VISITOR CENTER
While many Civil War battlefields have been losing out to encroaching development, Gettysburg has lately been turning the tide in that war. The victory scored in 2000, when the privately owned Gettysburg National Tower came down, was followed this January by the unveiling of plans for a much improved and less intrusive new visitor center and museum. The present one occupies Zeigler’s Grove, which was on the Union line on July 2 and 3, 1863, and was part of the site of Pickett’s charge; it will be demolished and that crucial battlefield area restored to its historic appearance. The new center, which will be able to handle several times as many visitors, will sit in a relatively insignificant hollow well behind the Union positions two-thirds of a mile away, on Hunt Avenue between Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road. It has been designed to look like a farm from the turn of the twentieth century and will contain two theaters, interpretive exhibits, a bookstore, a 250-seat cafeteria, and facilities for properly storing Civil War artifacts now elsewhere. A round barnlike structure will hold the panoramic Cyclorama painting currently in a building next to the visitor center, and winding paths through the woods will lead off to various battlefield sites.
The architect Jacquelin Robertson, whose firm created the design, said on the day of the unveiling that he wanted visitors “to put the highway world behind them. We want them to calm their minds for the profound experience that awaits them.” He explained the design’s pastoral appearance (local stone is used, plus wood and brick and metal roofing) by saying, “You want a structure that looks like it belongs there and not like a big set of boxes Federal Express left there the night before.” Construction will begin in 2004 and end in 2006, assuming that the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation, the organization behind it, can raise the $95 million needed.