Gettysburg is famous for its role as in of the bloodiest battles in the American Civil War. Today, millions of people visit Gettysburg every year to tour the battlefield and its monuments. Touristy shops line Steinwehr Avenue for these people to visit. But what not everyone realizes is that Gettysburg is in fact a real town, with an exciting business district that caters to a wide variety of tastes. Nearby Gettysburg College also gives the area a college town feel and numerous galleries, studios, and theatres also provide the area with cultural stimulation. Of course, many of the stores in Gettysburg sell Civil War memorabilia and artifacts. Others are gifts shops that specialize in related themes such as folk art and Americana. Being a mecca for history buffs, it's also not surprising to find a large number of antique stores in town as well.
The center of town is Lincoln Square at the intersections of Business Route U.S. 15 and U.S. Highway 30. These two routes are also Gettysburg's Main Streets. Business Route U.S. 15 is made up of Carlisle Street to the north and Baltimore Street to the south and even further south to Steinwehr Avenue where most of the "touristy" shops, eateries, and attractions are located. U.S. 30 is made up of York Street to the east and Chambersburg Street to the west. U.S. Highway 30 is also known as the Lincoln Highway. Gettysburg is the Adams County Seat. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is about 66 miles from Baltimore, Maryland, 86 miles from Washington, DC, and 140 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To find the heart of town, set your GPS for Lincoln Square where Business Route U.S. 15 and U.S. Highway 30 meet. For the more touristy area to the south, set your GPS for the intersection of Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Avenue. If you are feeling up to it, you could walk between the two districts. It is about a half mile between the two areas.
We start our tour of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the northern end of the historic district. The Gettysburg Train Station, built around 1858 in the Italianate style features a museum and Visitors Center on the first floor. Public restrooms are also available. In the back lefthand side of the picture you can see the parking garage where we parked. This is not a bad place to start your day in Gettysburg.
Across the street from the Gettysburg Train Station is the Lincoln Diner. You'll see many references to Lincoln in Gettysburg as this is where he gave his famous Gettysburg Address. In fact, the train station is where Lincoln arrived and departed from Gettysburg after giving the address.
Here's a view looking north on Carlisle Street. As you can see, the tracks are still in operation. The freight trains move slowly through town, so you don't have to worry about getting hit.
We'll continue heading south on Carlisle Street. On the right is The Majestic Theater, built in 1925 as an annex to the historic Gettysburg Hotel.
Across the street is a row of offices, shops, and cafes. We are currently on Business U.S. Route 15, which is Carlisle Street. Eventually this will turn into Baltimore Street, but for the most part Business U.S. Route 15 is what makes up Gettysburg's Main Street.
We make it to Lincoln Square, the center of town. The red house on the left is the David Wills house. This is where Lincoln stayed when he came to Gettysburg to give a few remarks at the dedication of a cemetery honoring the Union dead. He completed the remarks in the house and the speech became known as the Gettysburg Address.
We'll take a detour now and tour the main east-west cross street, which is U.S. Highway 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway. We'll start on the east side and head west. In the town of Gettysburg, this part of U.S. Highway 30 is referred to as York Street.
Built in 1786, the Brafferton Inn Bed and Breakfast is the oldest deeded house in downtown Gettysburg, and is also its oldest continual residence.
Across the street is the Gettysburg Community Theatre. Gettysburg is also a center for the arts, featuring many galleries and theaters such as this one. Gettysburg is also home to Gettysburg College so the town has a college town vibe going for it as well.
Here's another view of the signs in front of the Brafferton Inn and the Wentz Stained Glass Studio next door. The Wentz Studio is a good example of the sort of arts scene you will find in Gettysburg, however, their storefront has closed after 33 years in operation.
In Gettysburg, you'll find plenty of stores selling Civil War artifacts, collectibles, and even uniforms and equipment for Civil War reenactors .
Another example of the arts scene that you'll find in Gettysburg. Here is some art made out of gourds lining York Street.
We're getting close to Lincoln Square again. You can see the sign for U.S. Business Route 15. At the corner is the large Gettysburg Hotel, which is a complex made up of several buildings. On the right, the more modern building is the hotel's Grand Ballroom.
We now make it to Lincoln Square. On the southeast corner of the square, in front of the David Wills House is a statue of Abraham Lincoln sharing the area's history with a tourist. The tourist is also a statue, by the way.
Turning around and facing north, you can get a better view of the northeast corner of Lincoln Square and the Gettysburg Hotel and the multiple buildings that are a part of it. In the bottom, right-hand corner you can see a map of the area. People come to Gettysburg to visit the battlegrounds that surround the town but you can also find signs throughout town, marking what happened in town during the three-day battle.
On the southwest corner of Lincoln Square is a cozy outdoor cafe. The shape of the square allows for a large sidewalk space, almost like an open-air plaza.
We continue heading west and now we are on Chambersburg Street. Shops here include an apparel store and a vitamin shop.
Looking west we see a row of historic buildings that are home to shops, restaurants, and hotels. The sign points out this is in fact U.S. Highway 30.
More shops across the street, including a bank and a Christian Book Store. A directional sign points visitors to parking, the Gettysburg Train Station, Gettysburg College, and the Gettysburg Military Park Visitor Center.
And looking back across the street again we see an Army Surplus store next to a winery outlet. How's that for a combination? And the winery is selling slushies if you're feeling adventurous.
The James Gettys Hotel opened in 1804 as the Sign of the Buck Tavern and Roadhouse. Over the years it served as apartments, a hostel, and even an army hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. Today it is a hotel again and on the ground floor is one of the many art galleries you'll find throughout town.
A row of interesting architectural styles can be seen along Chambersburg Street.
As you can see on the historical marker, Thaddeus Stevens once lived on this spot. He was once an influential member of the House of Representitives, a Radical Republican and an abolitonist. For a point of reference, he was played by Tommy Lee Jones in the 2012 film, Lincoln.
Across the street, on the left, is the Christ Lutheran Church, and in the center is the Christ Luthern Church Parrish House. The church was built between 1835 and 1836 and suffered some damage during the battle of Gettysburg. The Lutherans also founded nearby Gettysburg College.
Further down Chambersburg Street is another shop selling colorful arts and crafts and a diner occupying an historic storefront.
We make it to the far western end of Gettysburg's downtown district. This historic building looks a little detatched on the left-hand side as if there may have been other structures standing there at one time.
We now head back to the center of town and Lincoln Square. The bus driving past is an example of one of the many driving through that give visitors a tour of the area including the Military Park and various historic sites throughout town.
Circling back on the square, we come across another winery that has set up shop for visitors to stop in and try a sample. This is actually on the northwest corner of Lincoln Square.
We now jump down to Baltimore Street south of Lincoln Square and continue our journey south along Business Route U.S. 15. Here, there are some boutiques and gift shops. But there is also a shop selling reproductions of Civil War era clothing.
Across the street, are more businesses and shops, including a jewelery store and coin shop.
And further down on the same side of the street, are some more offices, including some Adams County offices, and an art gallery.
Crossing back over again, we come across another gift shop and a cafe. There's a sign in front of the gift shop, calling itself the Lincoln Building with a picture of Abraham Lincoln on it.
Here is a better view of that row of shops and cafes from across the street. You can see we are at the intersection of Baltimore Street and Middle Street.
The Fahnestock House at the corner of Baltimore Street and Middle Street was important to the Battle of Gettysburg. It was here that General Oliver Howard was first able to get a clear view of the battlefield from the top of this building. Gives you an idea of just how close the fighting was to this town.
The Adams County Courthouse was built in 1856. Built with red brick, it was originally painted gray. It served as a command post and an army hospital for both the Union and the Confederates during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Across the street are more shops and businesses, including a colorful candy store on the bottom floor of the green white building on the left.
As we head further south on Baltimore Street, there are fewer shops and cafes to see. Although they are spread out throughout this stretch, there are still some to visit. But you will still find plenty of historic architectural gems and Civil War related attractions.
At the northeast corner of Baltimore and High Streets is the Gettysburg Federal Building, which was built in 1913, 50 years after the Battle of Gettysburg. It served as Gettysburg's U.S. Post Office, IRS offices, and Eisenhower's offices after he retired as president. In 1992, it became the home of the Adams County Public Library.
We continue walking further down Baltimore Street. Along the way, we come across more museums and historic sites, all with a Civil War theme in mind.
It's worth it for us to continue down this strecth of Baltimore Street. If you are wondering where we're going with all this, we are eventually going to hit another business district further south that tends to a bit more touristy than the historic district towards the north. But in between, we can check out the historic architecture along the way. And there are still some shops in between, such as this scrapbooking store across the street.
Continuing south along Baltimore Street, we come across another musueum and even an inn where you can stay.
At the corner of Baltimore and Breckenridge Streets, we find someone offering ghost tours by candlelight. Gettysburg is thought to be one of the most haunted towns in America, and considering its history it's no wonder.
We're close now to Gettysburg's other business district. Where the northern district centered around Lincoln Square, the southern district is centered around where Steinwehr Avenue meets Baltimore Street. Here we can see another winery outlet and a shop selling ice cream.
Across the street, we see the Farnsworth House Bed and Breakfast and Restaurant, along with a beer garden. The restaurant serves period food by people dressed in period costumes. The house itself sheltered Confederate sharpshooters during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Just south of the beer garden, we come across this historic house that offers ghost walks, a haunted cellar, and other attractions. The businesses along this stretch do offer more for the tourists. But it is still a pleasant walkable stroll with plenty of history.
Across the street, a house is now a cafe with a very bright pink coat of paint.
Back to the other side of Baltimore Street again we find a row of Bed and Breakfasts, some also selling gifts and collectables.
The Rupp House History Center is a museum where the ground floor is free of charge to patrons. You can learn what life was like for civilians and soldiers in the Gettysburg area during the Civil War.
We're close now to the intersection of Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Avenue. In the background, you can see a gas station. The west side of Steinwehr Avenue retains a walkable feel, but the east side begins to feel like a strip highway.
If we were to continue down Baltimore Street instead of Steinwehr Avenue, we would drive past this large hotel, which actually towers over both roads. I included this photo to give you an idea of the feel for the area.
Next door to that large hotel is the Jennie Wade House and Museum. Jennie Wade was the only direct civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg when she was hit by a stray Confederate sharpshooter's bullet. Some say that bullet may have come from the Farnsworth House.
Across the street, on Baltimore Street are some more historic houses, that are now gift shops, selling t-shirts, and another one selling new age merchandise.
We'll now head back down the hill to Steinwehr Avenue and continue heading south down Steinwehr. Here we see some gift shops and even a psychic.
From across the street, we see a row of well-kempt historic properties, all selling various items aimed at visitors coming to the area. The west side of Steinwehr Avenue is very well preserved.
Heading further south, we see more shops and even a restaurant. Brick sidewalks and benches make the area friendly to pedestrians.
It is an interesting contrast on Steinwehr Avenue between the historic preservation and the bright colors, signs, and merchandise used to entise shoppers and tourists to come in and patronize the businesses.
On the east side of Steinwehr Avenue, things are not bad either. There is just less density of businesses. Here we see a restaurant. There's a sidewalk so you can still walk that stretch.
Back to the other side of Steinwehr Avenue, we continue heading south. Notice how many of the shops embrace Civil War history. Also the flag hanging by the woman cleaning the windows is the official flag of the Confederate States of America, as opposed to the one you're used to seeing, which is actually the battle flag of the CSA.
More gift shops, t-shirt shops, and even a place to stop in for a quick bite to eat.
This is the Dobbin House Tavern. Established in 1776, it is the oldest standing structure in Gettysburg. Today it is a restuarant and tavern and part of a complex of buildings that make up Bed and Breakfasts, Dining Rooms, Ball Rooms, Taverns, and Gift Shops.
Across the street are some houses converted into businesses, including a coffee house. On the left you can see a sign for a Travelodge Motel. Again, just to give you an idea of what's on the east side of Steinwehr Avenue.
A little further south, on the same side of Steinwehr Avenue, is the Gettysburg National Cemetery Annex.
And back across the street again, are just a few more walkable gifts shops and even a tavern before you get to the strip highway section of Steinwehr Avenue.
This concludes our tour of the town of Gettysburg. But don't forget to also take a tour of the battlefield and drive around Gettysburg National Military Park while you're out there as well.
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Main Street Gettysburg
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