October 12, 2010 (Gettysburg, PA) A joint venture between the Adams County Historical Society (ACHS) and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg Seminary (the Seminary) to rehabilitate the iconic Schmucker Hall (Old Dorm) received critical lead support thanks to Governor Rendell’s authorization to release $4 million in funds from Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
The support, announced today by State Senator Rich Alloway, represents the concerted efforts of the senator, Governor Rendell and local stakeholders. In the release of the funding, the Governor noted, “[this project] will be a valuable asset to the community of Gettysburg, the Commonwealth of PA, and in no small measure, a gift to our Nation.”
The sole focus of the joint venture is the $11.7 million project to preserve the 1832 building, said to be one of the most important surviving Civil War buildings not owned by a public entity. The goal of the $11.7 million rehabilitation is to create a state of the art museum interpreting the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, its role as the largest fixed field hospital in Gettysburg, and its role in the African American experience, Underground Railroad, and religion and the churches in the 19th century conflict.
An analysis of the economic impact of the Schmucker Hall project found that it will create almost $5 million annually in new spending and $23 million during the construction period that will stimulate economic activity in the regional economy. “Funding this project has been a challenge in the present economic climate,” said Em Cole, Executive Director of Voices of History, “but this set of leading grants is crucial to seeking additional fund raising.” The museum project is expected to be funded by public and foundation grants and private gifts, with interim financing as needed.
Bradley Hoch, Chair of the ACHS Board, added, “Our continuing fund raising efforts need to be successful. The ACHS and Seminary must complete the project before July 1, 2013, which is the 150th anniversary of the battle and the projected grand opening of the museum.”
The building that in modern times has become known as Schmucker Hall has been at the center of important facets of the American story. Named for the founder of both the Seminary and the Gettysburg College, it was from 1832 onward a center of spiritual growth, religious lecture, study, and preparation for public ministry as
the main building of Gettysburg Seminary. Pre-war students from North and South lived and debated side by side. From 1835 to 1837, they lived with Daniel Alexander Payne, the earliest African American to receive an American post-graduate education in a Lutheran school. Nearby this school stood a structure that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad for freedom seekers from the South.
On July 1, 1863, the Seminary building stood at the center of the Union army’s defense against the advancing Confederates west of Gettysburg. Union cavalry General John Buford scouted the Confederate army and planned with General John Reynolds from the building’s cupola. As the events of the day unfolded, it quickly became the largest field hospital of the battle, hosting more than 600 wounded soldiers, about 70 of whom died in the building. “Gettysburg’s Seminary of 1863,” said Hoch, “presents a study in human conflict. It is a monument to our past and a lesson for our future. It is suffering and sacrifice; honor and heroism; remembrance and reconciliation. It is a cherished heirloom that we bequeath to our children and to all who come after.”
Em Cole, former Vice President for Seminary Advancement, now serves as Executive Director of “Voices of History,” the joint venture created to raise funds for the rehabilitation and plan the museum project. Leroy Kline and the staff of Delta Development assisted Voices of History leaders in their efforts to identify sources of support in the early phases of the project.
The rehabilitation of Schmucker Hall is the last remaining project included in the 1999 “Interpretive Plan” outlining the priority projects for the Borough designed to provide enhanced historical experiences for visitors to the National Military Park and the town. Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum in a rehabilitated Schmucker Hall now becomes the flagship of planning for the 150th commemoration of the famous battle taking place in 2013.