Gettysburg Hotel, Est.1797

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Discover Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797, which began as a tavern on what is now known as Lincoln Square, Gettysburg's historic town center.

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Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2003, dates back to 1797.


Gettysburg Hotel, Est.1797, began as a tavern on what is now “Lincoln Square,” Gettysburg's historic town center. It was specifically called “Scott’s Tavern,” a popular roadside destination operated by local proprietor James Scott. But in 1809, a former York County sheriff named William McClellan purchased the business, renaming it as the “Indian Queen” shortly thereafter. The McClellan family would become synonymous with the tavern itself, with the inn even becoming known as the “McClellan House” during the late 1840s. Then in the summer of 1863, the building witnessed one of the most pivotal events in the American Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg. Confederate troops swarmed the town amid a three-day battle that saw more than 50,000 Americans become casualties. (President Abraham Lincoln subsequently penned the famous Gettysburg Address right across the street at the Willis House, which he would later give at the dedication ceremony for the Soldier’ National Cemetery.) The 1890s saw an impressive renovation affect the entire building after the new owners christened the business as the “Gettysburg Hotel.” By the time the 1900s dawned, the Gettysburg Hotel boasted electric lights, modern plumbing, and a fine dining restaurant.

The Gettysburg Hotel rapidly emerged as one of the most luxurious destinations in Pennsylvania, hosting numerous luminaries over the next several decades. In fact, the Gettysburg Hotel’s greatest guest was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who used the building as a temporary White House while recovering from a heart attack in 1955. President Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, greatly appreciated the service they encountered at the Gettysburg Hotel and became regular guests. Indeed, the two were the hotel’s last patrons right before the Gettysburg Hotel closed down for good a decade later. Through an initiative of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg Hotel was carefully restored in cooperation with the Historic Architectural Review Board. Reopened as the “Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797,” during the early 1990s, the grand new building faithfully recaptured its historic past. In 2012, another comprehensive renovation was completed to strengthen the hotel’s position as a premier retreat. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2003, the Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797, remains one of the best places to stay in all of Pennsylvania for a truly wonderful experience. Cultural heritage travelers in particular will find its proximity to various historic sites to be incredibly interesting, especially the Eisenhower National Historic Site and Gettysburg National Military Park.

  • About the Location +

    While many know of Gettysburg due to the massive battle that was fought all around it, the town itself contains quite a notable past. Gettysburg’s earliest history harkens back to disparate bands of European colonists who settled the region during the 18th century. They had specifically arrived when the Penn family opened the territory to settlement at the start of the 1730s. Life in the area was rough though, as the initial homesteaders were left isolated from the established communities near the Atlantic coastline. The situation became more precarious once the French and Indian Wars erupted throughout North America. French forces from Canada frequently raided the vicinity, pillaging the many farms that dotted the countryside. Thankfully, not all of the earliest settlers encountered hardship. One settler—an immigrant from Ireland named Samuel Gettys—founded a rural tavern at the intersection of a major crossroads in 1761. Gettys had mainly constructed his business as a means of serving the many soldiers and merchants that frequently passed through the juncture toward the frontier around the Great Lakes. Over time, a series of buildings gathered around the tavern, making it one of the major communities in the region. In fact, the Pennsylvania state government elevated the community to the status of a town, recognizing it as “Gettysburg” toward the end of the century. The legislators even made Gettysburg the county seat for the newly created Adams County in 1790.

    Due to its proximity along a prominent network of trade routes, Gettysburg quickly flourished as an important regional commercial center. A number of business opened in the heart of the community that catered to the county’s prosperous agricultural sector. As such, visitors to Gettysburg could find a wealth of services to suit their needs, ranging from tanneries to shoemaking. The economic activity even encouraged the Gettysburg Railroad to establish a station within the town in 1858. Many people subsequently flocked into the city, too, raising its population total to more than 7,500 people at the middle of the century! But its status as a transportation hub unfortunately made it a military target in the American Civil War, specifically during the Gettysburg campaign. The Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia clashed for three days in early July of 1863 during the climatic “Battle of Gettysburg.” A Union victory, the battle was devastating—of the 165,000 men who fought in the battle, more than 50,000 were casualties. Gravediggers subsequently interred the deceased on the battlefield in what became known as the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” (today’s Gettysburg National Cemetery). To commemorate the new facility, President Abraham Lincoln himself gave one of America’s most famous speeches that has since gone down in history as the “Gettysburg Address.” In it, President Lincoln paid tribute to the slain, while professing his hope that the United States would emerge from the conflict stronger than ever.

    Gettysburg recovered over the following decades, reemerging once more as a prosperous commercial town by the beginning of the 20th century. Indeed, Gettysburg was soon hosting a robust furniture manufacturing trade, with the first company—the appropriately named “Gettysburg manufacturing Company”—opening in 1902. Furniture remained the primary form of economic activity in Gettysburg for many years thereafter, continuing well into the 1950s. Another industry that gradually supplanted it was the tourism generated from the nearby Civil War battlefield. Veterans had returned to the town since the Gilded Age and placed numerous monuments upon land they had bought. The federal government then assumed control over that space and transformed it into an official national park in 1895. The National Park Service eventually became the stewards of the destination, along with a farmhouse that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had operated during his presidency. (This facility is now preserved as the “Eisenhower National Historic Site” and is located adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park.) The presence of both historic sites inspired thousands of travelers to visit Gettysburg every year. Gettysburg has since remained one of America’s most celebrated holiday destinations, especially among the nation’s enthusiastic cultural heritage travelers. Any student of American history certain to enjoy a trip out to this legendary community.

  • About the Architecture +

    The Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797, displays a wonderful blend of Beaux-Arts style architecture, which became widely popular around the dawn of the 20th century. This beautiful architectural form originally began at an art school in Paris known as the École des Beaux-Arts during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, ad Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements like balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts only found a receptive audience in France and the United States though, as most other Western architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles.   

  • Famous Historic Events +

    Battle of Gettysburg (1863): The late spring of 1863 was a tough time for the Union during the American Civil War. The Union Army of the Potomac had just experienced a resounding defeat against the Confederates at the Battle of Chancellorsville earlier that May. Emboldened by the victory, General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia then initiated a second invasion of the northern states that sought to gather much-needed supplies from the rolling farmland of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Additionally, Lee had further hoped deteriorate the Union’s will to fight, believing that a Confederate triumph on northern soil would build anti-war sentiment throughout the region. As such, Lee began moving his army from the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia toward western Maryland in June. Still shaken by the loss at Chancellorsville, the commander of the Army of the Potomac—General Joseph Hooker—sluggishly pursued Lee north until his eventual replacement by one of his chief lieutenants, General George Meade. After a series of minor engagements, the two armies found themselves searching for one another across the border in southern Pennsylvania. Seemingly by accident, an infantry division of Lee’s stumbled into Gettysburg on the morning of July 1 and encountered a vigilant picket of federal cavalrymen just outside of the town. The skirmish gradually evolved into a pitched battle between two full Union Corps from the Army of the Potomac against most of the Army of Northern Virginia. At first, the federal army managed to check the rebel advances against Gettysburg from the north and west, although it cost them the life of a talented general named Joseph Reynolds. But continuous attacks against the Union I and XI Corps eventually caused their own lines to break and flee back through Gettysburg toward an imposing series of heights around a place called “Cemetery Ridge.” The Confederates subsequently occupied Gettysburg, leaving all the local buildings—including the predecessor to the Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797—at the mercy of Lee’s army.

    Despite the day’s successes, Lee and his top generals failed to press their attack later that evening. The delay enabled General Meade to reinforce the Union positions along Cemetery Ridge, while also bringing more men and material into the area. The next day, Lee realized that he faced a formidable challenge in dislodging the Army of the Potomac from its fortifications. Nevertheless, he proposed a daring strategy in which his own forces would attempt to encircle the Union position via a two-pronged flanking attack. The corps under General James Longstreet would assault the Union left near two landmarks called “Little Round Top” and “Big Round Top,” while Richard Ewell would hit the Union right at Culp’s Hill. The Confederate battleplan was made easier when one of the Union commanders, Dan Sickles, inexplicably moved his own men out from the protection of the ridgeline to a peach orchard along a thoroughfare called the “Emmitsburg Road.” Unfortunately for Lee, Longstreet did not launch his attack until the evening of July 2. Longstreet’s assault was devastating, smashing Sickles forces and nearly routing them back to Cemetery Ridge. But the Union rallied, feeding additional units into the fray. The 20th Infantry Regiment and its commander, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin, made a particularly daring stand against the Confederate onslaught, driving away rebel units that threatened to turn the Union flank. In the end, Longstreet’s men were checked despite several moments where they nearly overwhelmed the Union defenders. Meanwhile, Ewell’s men vainly attempted to dislodge the Union soldiers from Culp’s Hill, as the Union embattlements were too challenging to overcome. By the end of the day, the Army of the Potomac had been bloodied but not broken.

    That night, Robert E. Lee determined to strike the Union lines again one more time. His opposite—General George Meade—speculated that Lee would try another attack and resolved to met him. He predicated Lee’s new strategy, which was a frontal assault on the only place of the Union defenses that had yet to see heavy fighting—the center. The next day, July 3, Confederate gunners began peppering Cemetery Hill with a long barrage of cannon shells. Union cannons responded in kind and the federal soldiers braced for the attack. Finally, at 2 p.m., the lead Confederate divisions emerged from the woods to assault the Union positions. Consisting of 12,500 men, the officer directly responsible for leading the attack was George Pickett. The entire assault proved to be ill-fated though, as the Confederates were immediately assailed by Union gunfire. Despite the heavy casualties, the Confederate kept pushing forward until one brigade managed to briefly pierce the Union lines around a corpse of trees. The charge was nonetheless savagely beaten back, with nearly two-thirds of the entire force killed, wounded, or captured. Remembered today as “Pickett’s Charge,” the repulsed assault marked the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Defeated, Lee led his shattered army back into Virginia two days later. General George Meade and the Army of the Potomac had achieved a great victory over the Confederates, although it had come at a heavy price. Of the 165,000 men who fought in the battle, more than 50,000 were casualties. The Army of Northern Virginia suffered proportionately more losses than its northern counterpart, which prevented Lee from launching another offensive for the remainder of the conflict. As such, many today consider the Battle of Gettysburg to be a major turning point in the Union’s ultimate victory during the American Civil War.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Mamie Eisenhower, First Lady to former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953 – 1961)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II.

Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

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Nobody Asked Me, But...

Hotel History: The Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797 (1797), Gettysburg, Pennsylvania*

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

The Gettysburg Hotel is located on the site of Scott's Tavern built by James Scott in 1797. A former York County sheriff, William McClellan, acquired the tavern in 1809 and renamed it the Indian Queen. After 1846, the McClellan brothers changed the name to the McClellan House.

During the summer of 1863, the Union victory at Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, which ended Confederate General Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North. Gettysburg was the war's bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties over a brutal three-day period. At the end of the battle, some 22,000 wounded remained on the fields where they fell. Nearby field hospitals, houses, churches and other buildings were inadequate to house and treat these wounded soldiers. On November 19, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered his brilliant Gettysburg address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery which was completed in March 1864. He had written the speech at the David Wills house across Lincoln Square from the McClellan House doors.

In the 1890s, a new owner replaced the old tavern/inn structure with an imposing building called the Gettysburg Hotel. By the early 1900s, the hotel had electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold baths and a fine restaurant. In 1955, the hotel served as President Dwight Eisenhower's national operations center while he recovered from a heart attack. In 1964, Eisenhower and his wife Mamie were the hotel's last guests before the owner closed its doors. The building became an apartment house until it was ravaged by fire in 1983. The Eisenhowers owned a farm adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield which served the President as a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. It is now the Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Through the initiative of the new owner, Gettysburg College, the hotel was carefully restored in cooperation with the Historic Architectural Review Board. Featuring 119 traditionally-appointed guestrooms, the hotel now includes a fitness center, rooftop swimming pool and an old English pub. All suites have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. There's a cannonball from the battle of Gettysburg that's still embedded in the brick wall across the street.

The historic Gettysburg Hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation with completion in early 2013, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Renovations of the 119-room hotel linked the destination to its historical past, while allowing it to remain relevant and competitive today. The renovation touches all areas of the hotel including the guestrooms, meeting and banquet space, lobby and the restaurant. Architectural changes introduced a more open lobby space with a fireplace, communal table and added technology that served as both a living room and a gathering space for guests. The existing tavern space was expanded and a new dining experience introduced to hotel guests, visitors to the city, and the local community. The hotel acquired the Gettysburg National Bank building circa 1814, which now provides a magnificent ballroom for weddings, social events and upscale meetings. The Gettysburg Hotel is managed by the Connecticut-based Waterford Hotel Group.

The Gettysburg Hotel is subsidiary of Gettysburg College and is within walking distance of the College's Majestic Theater, as well as the battlefield, attractions, shops and restaurants of the historic town of Gettysburg. The hotel's location and proximity to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Harrisburg and Hershey make it an ideal spot for traveling to a variety of historic sites and places of interest.

*excerpted from his book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi


About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:

  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”

Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Works published by Stanley Turkel include:

Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting, or by clicking on the book’s title.

Contact: Stanley Turkel

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