Lincoln Train Station to be Restored
A citizen and government partnership effort is successful in gaining ownership and funding.
|Thanks to some community-minded Gettysburg citizens and government officials, the
historic Lincoln Train Station has a new owner and protector to restore it to the beauty
of those days when it was the passenger station of the area. Gettysburg had long been a
transportation hub due to its ten roads leading into and out of the town, built to
transport the locally produced goods to market. (These roads were one of the reasons that
a large battle of the Civil War occurred here.)
As the Gettysburg area grew in the early nineteenth century, local businesses desired the latest technology, a railroad line, to service their needs. They succeeded with the first train rolling into Gettysburg in 1858.
The railroad company was started on a tight budget and the management needed to invent some creative solutions to keep down the start-up costs. When it came time to buy land for a passenger station they appealed to the business sense of a local hotel owner. With the prospect of rail passengers being deposited at the doorstep of his hotel, George McClellan, owner of the McClellan House (now the Gettysburg Hotel) agreed to deed over a lot adjoining his hotel. The deed included a caveat that if ever the railroad company did not use the building, the lot would revert back to the hotel.
The passenger station was completed in 1859 with a large brass bell in the cupola to announce the arrival and departure of trains. Rail service succeeded in building the economy of the area.
After four years of service, the passenger station took on the role of a make-shift hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. After the battle, the rail line proved invaluable in bringing much-needed supplies and the hundreds of people arriving to help care for (and sometimes look for) the thousands of wounded soldiers left behind. As soon as the wounded were able to travel, they departed from the passenger station to city hospitals. This continued for months.
On November 18, 1863, Gettysburg's most famous visitor arrived at the passenger station. President Lincoln entered the station to thank his train conductor before emerging onto the street to be greeted by his welcoming committee. The next day, after delivering the most famous speech in American history, the President returned to the station to board his train back to Washington.
For the next seventy nine years the train station saw thousands of passengers come and go. With the new technology of automobile travel, the station held its last train passenger in 1942.
Although the ownership of the train station remained in the hands of the succeeding railroad companies that bought out its predecessors, this ownership was challenged in court in the 1970's by the then owner of the Gettysburg Hotel. George Olinger declared that by the authority of the original 1858 agreement between the railroad and hotel, he owned the building and lot as the railroad company no longer used the station for passenger service. The court held that the building was still used for storage and thus was the property of the railroad.
By the 1990's neglect to the building rendered it in poor condition and in desperate need of preservation. Several Gettysburg citizens, headed by Andy Larson, banded together a committee to attempt to obtain ownership and find funding. With the help of the Borough of Gettysburg, an agreement was signed with the Olinger family. Our state Senator Terry Punt, negotiated with the current railroad owner, CSX, to donate the station to the Borough of Gettysburg. Senator Punt also was instrumental in contacting Congressman Bud Shuster who secured federal funding for a portion of the project. As the fundraising and restoration process proceeds, Gettysburg citizens are proud that this symbol of our growth and history will be renewed.
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