Battlefield Preservation or Destruction at Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg

Update: The above image of the proposed trails was made available by John Spangler of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

Here is a story that should concern all of you about the integrity of the Gettysburg battlefield.  The Lutheran Seminary had embarked upon the construction of a historic trail that looks to threaten some of the most important ground from the fighting on July 1, 1863.  Behind the scenes some preservation groups have expressed reservations, but this story needs to go public and the Civil War community needs to make the Seminary folks aware that their plans for the future are intrusive and a threat to the historic resource that they are committed to protect.  The Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation held a public information session a few days ago only after the project had commenced and damage had been done to the landscape.  From what I am hearing the panel was unable to address how they reconciled the destruction of the land with their preservation mission.  Their plans also include the construction of trails on the western face of Seminary Ridge.  The Lutheran Seminary cannot simply fall back on the position that this is private property since this project has been partly funded by federal funds.

I don’t know all the details, but at the least the SRHPF should be able to answer questions from those people worried about preservation about how this project will impact the physical landscape of the battlefield.  Below are a few pictures that were sent to me that show some of the construction (or destruction) that has already taken place.  Let’s get the word out.

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17 comments… add one

  • Mark S Sep 3, 2012

    It should be pointed out that the pictures accompanying the post show construction activity on the eastern (not western) face of Seminary Ridge. Both faces of the ridge have already been substantially altered (parking lots, tennis courts, buildings).

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2012

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, those photos are indeed from the eastern face of Seminary Ridge.

  • Vince Sep 3, 2012

    I don’t understand what you’re saying, Kevin. All I can tell from the photos is that someone is pushing dirt around to build an interpretive trail.

    Is your point that the interpretive trail will destroy the battlefield? Or are you saying that pushing dirt around constitutes destroying the battlefield? Is there some sort of maximum allowable cubic yardage of dirt that’s allowed to be displaced for each linear foot of trail built?

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2012

      All I am communicating is that good friends who I respect from the historical/preservation community are quite concerned about what is taking place on the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary.

      • Vince Sep 3, 2012

        Can you (or someone who knows) better define the words “threaten,” “integrity,” and “destruction,” though, in this context? I really don’t understand the issue as it relates to a temporary reshuffling of dirt to make way for an interpretive trail. Unless I’m missing something…

        • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2012

          That is all the information I have at this point. I am hoping to get more information and/or for those involved to post additional details for the benefit of all of you. Sorry about that.

          • Vince Sep 3, 2012

            Ok, thank you, Kevin. With my view from afar, it seems to me like the adaptive reuse of Old Dorm and the interpretive trail are a pretty clear win-win for the Seminary, the Adams County Historical Society, and battlefield visitors.

  • John Spangler Sep 3, 2012

    The key to this report is, to quote, “I don’t know all the details.” This project is a part of a larger rehabilitation of Schmucker Hall, opening one of the most important Civil War structures to the public next year. What you see above is a historic pathway that will interpret the battle field as well as the religious, civic and literary historical legacies of Seminary Ridge. How about contact us for details before jumping to a conclusion? Construction phases of a project tend to look more dramatic than once complete.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2012

      I fully admit that I am not directly familiar with what is going on at the Lutheran Seminary. The information was provided to me by a well-respected voice in the community and I have since heard from another contact in the community. If they are concerned, I am concerned. Thanks for providing the link to your organization.

      • John Spangler Sep 4, 2012

        The Seminary Ridge Museum website is now up and running, with more information to come. http://www.seminaryridgemuseum.org

        • John Cummings Sep 5, 2012

          Mr. Spangler,

          Is there a way to view the graphics (site plan maps) on your link so that they can be read? As they are presented the words are illegible. I can tell the project orientation but none of the detailed descriptions. It would be greatly appreciated.

          • John Spangler Sep 5, 2012

            Having worked with these drawings and the web quite a bit, I must say that it just isn’t possible to do so without being prohibitively large in the file. Sorry.

    • Eric Mink Sep 4, 2012

      John – Are there any available graphics on-line that show what the intended interpretive trail is to look like and how it is to function? You are correct in that construction tends to look more dramatic than when the project is complete. The construction photos show a fair amount of earth disturbance, perhaps large enough for a road. What surface is the trail to have?

      As a former resident of Gettysburg, I have fond memories of the Seminary and the sloping landform that rises up to Schmucker Hall. That large expanse of green space has always been pleasing to the eye when driving out of town on Route 30. My concern would be the sensitivity with which the trail lies upon this landscape. Were any landscape studies completed during the design phase to assess the trail’s impact?

      • John Spangler Sep 5, 2012

        I will see if we have renderings that depict the trail itself. In my opinion, it will blend into the green space nicely, preserving most of the contours of the slope. The restoration of the tan path in a reasonably wide dimension will be much closer to the original than what has been there now. Our methods was to place the path in a way that made the walking experience pleasant and blended in at the same time, as an alternative to dramatically expanding sidewalks. The pathway’s concept was called for by the 1998 Gettysburg Interpretive Plan, a product of full community partnerships through Main Street Gettysburg, specifically to enhance the pedestrian experience of the town.

        Because these drawings are large format, there is no easyway to mount them on the website in a way that would not be impractical for viewing. Sorry.

        • Eric Mink Sep 6, 2012

          John – I was not aware that the path was part of a larger and older interpretive plan. Thanks for the response and the info. I appreciate your attempt to upload the drawings.

  • Vince Sep 6, 2012

    Kevin, do you have any updates from your contacts? If one of the most important pieces–and my favorite–of the Gettysburg battlefield is indeed threatened with destruction, I would like to know what’s going on.

    Otherwise, I’m inclined to view the projects of the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation as wonderful additions (and subtractions, given the planned removal of tennis courts according to the website) to the battlefield.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 6, 2012

      Not at this point.

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