The current tour center is a manufactured cabin structure that lacks a foundation and modern amenities. The new building will be larger and have greater use of space, energy efficiency, and handicapped visitor accessibility. (Rendering courtesy of Gettysburg Connection)
Construction of a new two-story Gettysburg Tour Center on Baltimore Pike in the historic southern Pennsylvania town is expected to begin in mid-February, the Gettysburg Times reported Jan. 31.
After the current facility at 778 Baltimore St. is demolished, completion of the new building on the same footprint should "coincide with the start of the 2024 tourist season," owner Max Felty told the Times.
The project is "an upgrade to an iconic Gettysburg landmark" where the business has been operating for more than 60 years, he said.
Nearby is the site of the climactic battle of the Civil War, where over three days, July 1 to 3, 1863, the forces of the Union Army, under Maj. Gen. George Meade, defeated the Confederate Army, commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee, in what is still the largest land conflict in North American history. It involved 180,000 troops on both sides, resulting in a combined 51,000 casualties. The outcome also led to the eventual collapse of the Confederacy.
Four months later, another iconic event occurred in the small town when President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of what is now known as the Gettysburg National Cemetary, next to the battlefield.
Existing Tour Center Building Out of Date
For decades, the blue and gray double-decker buses that shuttle visitors around the hauntingly beautiful and sprawling battleground have been a regular sight on the roads in and around Gettysburg.
Ever since the buses started running in the 1950s, the tours have begun and ended at the Gettysburg Tour Center on Baltimore Street. Later, the company moved into a manufactured cabin structure.
Despite additions over the years, the building lacks a foundation and has various other needs, prompting the decision to replace the structure with one offering "more square footage, greater use of space, energy efficiency, and handicapped visitor accessibility," Felty explained.
The Times noted an earlier upgrade was planned for the facility in the early 2000s but was put on hold due to the National Park Service's construction of the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center in 2008, although the two centers are not affiliated.
Now, Felty said he feels "the timing is right for reinvestment into [both Gettysburg Tour Center] and the town. The positive return of visitation after our worst year ever in 2020 [due to COVID-19] has given me confidence that Gettysburg will remain a popular destination for travelers well into the future.
"Plans for the Baltimore Street Revitalization Project have further inspired me to do my part to make sure that the first thing visitors see as they enter the borough of Gettysburg is a welcoming, attractive building situated to guide visitors to a world class experience when visiting Gettysburg," he continued.
Plans for the new tour center follow several years of analysis and planning with Buchart Horn Inc., an engineering and architectural firm in York, Pa., Felty added. The general contractor is ECI Construction in Dillsburg.
While the Gettysburg Tour Center is under construction, according to the Times, the company's retail and ticketing operations are to move across the street to 777 Baltimore St., Suite 100. Departures are to be from the temporary location as well as the existing parking lot.
Today's top stories