Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hidden Gems on the Battlefield

Like most of the country, Gettysburg has been experiencing (and enjoying, for the most part) some unseasonably warm weather over the past couple of months.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those in the central states, whose weather has taken a turn for the dangerous recently, and with those in the northern states whose produce crops are at risk due to early budding.  Adams County boasts a good many orchards, and we have all held our breath several nights over the last weeks, hoping for a breeze on nights that could dip below freezing.

Anyway, with all of this warm weather, the trees and grasses of the battlefield are lush and green, and the peach and apple trees are blossoming, and it's just a beautiful time to get out on the battlefield and enjoy some fresh air!  I haven't had the chance to head out with my camera lately, but I was enjoying a glance through some photos I took last year.  If things weren't so green around here, I might think of trying to pass last year's photos off on you, but it would never work!

I found a few, though, that I think would make for a fun bit of trivia.  I have lived here for 20 years and never knew that this particular little gem existed, until I found it last spring.  (Steph told me that it was only reopened within the past few years, so that makes me feel a bit better.)  So, can you guess where this is???

 Clue #1:
[photo: C.Todd]

 Okaaaaaay...Let's see...bronze? copper? a railing?  Need more to go on?

Clue #2:
[photo: C.Todd]
Massively confusing, eh?  It looks like a picture of someone's crazy basement...Still need another clue?

Clue #3:
[photo: C.Todd]  
Well, whatever it is, it certainly produces some intriguing photos!  I have a couple more clues...

Clue #4:
[photo: C.Todd] 
I don't want to make this too easy, so before I offer two photos that are dead giveaways, I wanted to give you one more difficult clue. Does anyone know where this statue of General Hancock is located on the battlefield?

Clue #5:
[photo: C.Todd]
Ok, I think that this might be close to giving it away...do you know what monument sports this enormous angel?

Clue #6:
[photo: C.Todd]
Ok!  The angel stands atop a huge white monument!  General Hancock was from Pennsylvania!  THAT'S RIGHT...

[photo:  www.gettysburg.travel]


I had no idea that the PA Monument had a "secret" stairwell inside!  You can actually climb up to the top of the monument, right below the rotunda!  Nifty!  I highly recommend this short climb to enjoy some breathtaking views of the battlefields!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"We'd like to thank the Academy..." ;)

Hello out there in Blogland!  I fell off the blog wagon there for a while (Thanksgiving was just a few weeks ago, right?), but now I’m back and ready to start chatting again about this beautiful inn, and this wonderful town!  So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Exciting news!  James Gettys Hotel was voted “Best Historic Inn” of 2012 by online readers of the LanierBB.com Travel Guide (We were also named “Most Romantic Inn” in Pennsylvania)!  Pamela Lanier is a leading travel writer who has worked tirelessly, since 1982,  to expand awareness of specialty lodging (i.e. B&Bs and inns) among travelers, and allow innkeepers to share their properties with as many travelers as possible.  Ms. Lanier literally wrote the book on B&Bs!

Each year LanierBB.com awards inns in the US and Canada (international inns also compete, but separately from the US/Canada), in over 80 categories, from “Most Romantic” to “Best Turndown Service”.  Awards are decided based upon votes cast by online readers.  Many inns (like us!) include a “Vote for our Inn” link on their websites, and visitors may also cast votes by going directly to the LanierBB.com site. 

We love our guests, and strive to make their stays with us as comfortable and memorable as possible. We sincerely thank each and every person who cast a vote for the James Gettys Hotel!  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"...set apart a day of Thanksgiving and Praise..."

Sometimes I feel like I'm playing Six Degrees of Separation - it seems like any prominent day on the calendar has some link to Abraham Lincoln!  Thanksgiving is no exception!

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Thanksgiving Proclamation, setting apart the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to the benevolent God who, despite a raging domestic war, had preserved the safety of America and her people from outside enemies, among other blessings.

Today, Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that is actively celebrated by the country as a whole.  No matter who we thank for our blessings, we all have things to be thankful for. 

I'd like to send out a great big, special thank you to all the men and women who serve this great nation to protect our freedoms.  I'm thankful for all of you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of www.saturdayeveningpost.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seven score & eight years ago...

“…It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In less than three minutes, President Abraham Lincoln changed our nation’s historical rhetoric forever.  On a mild afternoon in November, after hearing the eloquent Edward Everett orate for the better part of two hours, the president  strode to the front of the speakers’ platform to deliver a “few appropriate remarks.” 

Two hundred seventy-one words later*, America had had its past, present and future spelled out in blinding simplicity.  We were a fledgling nation, a social experiment that had been “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  We were a nation at war, testing whether the experiment could be successful in the long-term.  We were a nation that would require the dedication of its people to thrive. 

It’s been 148 years since President Lincoln spoke those immortal words in a muddy cemetery to the south of town.  We are a nation that continues to face challenges that threaten to tear at the national fabric.  We still have a “great task remaining before us.”  We the people must remain resolved and dedicated to the protection of our freedom and democracy.  

Join us at the Soldiers National Cemetery Rostrum at 9:30 am on November 19th to remember, through President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”, those who have perished to protect our nation.

Other events that day include a parade that begins at 1:30 pm, and the 9th annual Remembrance Illumination from 5:30-9:30 pm.  Please visit www.gettysburg.travel for full event listings.

Remembrance Illumination; photo courtesy of www.palincoln.org

*Lincoln authored five copies of his address - each was a little different.  I've referred to the text carved in the wall at the Lincoln Memorial, which has 271 words.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That is the Question

I'm always amused, but never surprised when I answer the phone at the hotel and hear the inevitable question, "Is your hotel haunted?"  The question amuses me, because it's often asked in conjunction with other questions about our amenities, like do we have a pool?  Do you have ironing boards in the room? What's the breakfast like? Oh, and are you haunted?

The question never surprises me because this is Gettysburg.  Any town that's seen as much death as this town's seen would field this question.  Saying that the question never comes as a surprise doesn't mean that I can answer it without getting all flustered, however.

I've found that the people asking the question don't always want the same answer.  Some people are asking because they want to stay in a haunted hotel.  Others are asking because they would like to avoid an encounter at all costs.

Now, one would think that it would be a no-brainer to tell each of these groups that yes, we are 100% haunted, or no, absolutely not, as the case may be.  How could they prove otherwise if everyone experiences things differently?  I've never felt this to be a black and white issue, so I hate to give a yes or no answer.

So, how should one answer the haunted question?  Well, it's not surprising that everyone has her own method of response.  I go for the personal approach - I tell guests that I have not personally seen anything, and that I don't really want to hear any of the stories, because I have an overactive imagination and spend too much time alone in the building at night.  This answer usually gets a sympathetic chuckle.

I mentioned that there are people who are not keen on being in a haunted building.  I simply tell those guests that I've never seen anything in a year of employment here, nor in twelve years of working in Gettysburg.  It's the truth, and hopefully it helps to put their minds to rest.

I know that everyone who works here has their own way of responding to the question.  General Manager Stephanie prefers not to shade people's possible experiences in the hotel by telling specific stories.  If you come downstairs in the morning, bursting to tell a story that is similar to any other stories she's heard, Steph is likely to tell you about it at that time.  Kristina takes a similar approach to both Steph and myself.  She typically tells guests it's for them to decide if we're haunted or not, because everyone's experience and perception is unique.

Twice each year, we host a Ghost Quest Weekend (listed as Spirit Quest on our website).  This is a special event weekend that includes instruction by Mark Nesbitt (author of the Ghosts of Gettysburg series) and his investigative team, including Investigative Medium Laine Crosby.  There are also investigations of the James Gettys, the Ghosts of Gettysburg HQ and another location in or around Gettysburg.  The weekend is always a hit with guests and staff alike.  The next event is scheduled for the weekend of September 9th to the 11th.  We do still have one slot available (book now!).  If you are unable to join us in September, please keep an eye on our website for the next date to be announced!

Don't worry, you don't have to be a "ghost quester" to enjoy our hotel any other time.  We specialize in making you feel welcome, so book a stay and come relax in one of our comfy suites.  As for the haunted question - that's for you to decide!

Clean & Comfortable:  Nightly turn-down service turns a suite into a home-away-from-home. 
Photo credits:  Catriona Todd

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Memoriam

Although the birthplace of Memorial Day (Waterloo, NY) was not officially declared until 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, and the holiday itself was not made official until 1971 by an act of Congress, Memorial Day traditions had already been celebrated across the land since the end of the Civil War.  Each community has its own traditions for the celebration of this important day, and Gettysburg is no exception.  To really appreciate the traditions we uphold in our town today, it would be prudent to take a look back at those bloody days in 1863.

As we see even now on our nightly news reports, there are always one or two heart-tugging stories that come out of the battle fray and really resonate with the civilians back home.  This is exactly the sort of story that started sweeping the northern states after a Union soldier was found dead in Gettysburg, clutching an ambrotype image of his three young children.  The story of the unknown father's devotion to his three little orphans caught the emotions and imaginations of the north, and through the efforts of Dr. John Francis Bourns of Philadelphia (who had been volunteering his medical services in Gettysburg during the battle), the widow of Sergeant Amos Humiston was found in Portville, NY in November 1863.

Left to right:  Frank, Freddie and Alice Humiston as seen in this copy of the ambrotype image held by Sgt. Humiston at his death  -- Photo credit:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The popularity and overwhelming sympathy triggered by the story resulted in a successful publicity campaign that raised enough money to open an orphanage for children of Union soldiers.  The National Soldiers Orphans' Homestead opened in Gettysburg in 1866.  Philinda Humiston, the widow of Sgt. Humiston, accepted the post as the orphanage's headmistress, and moved to Gettysburg with her three children - Frank, Freddie and Alice.  While Philinda was not happy in Gettysburg, and promptly moved away in 1869 after receiving a proposal of marriage, she did begin one tradition that is still observed each May in Gettysburg.

On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic officially proclaimed the existence of Memorial Day (often termed Decoration Day).  He designated May 30, 1868 "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion" (as stated in his General Order No. 11).

And so, on this day, Philinda walked the orphans and her own children up the hill to what is now the Soldiers National Cemetery, and allowed them to put bouquets of flowers on the graves of their fathers.  This tradition was repeated each year, and after the orphanage closed in 1877, Gettysburg school children continued to decorate the graves with flowers and petals each May.

Sergeant Amos Humiston's grave in Soldiers National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA -- Photo credit:  www.gettysburgdaily.com
 This Memorial Day, Monday, May 30th at 2:00 pm, people will line Middle and Baltimore streets to view the annual parade as it makes its way to the Baltimore Street gate of the National Cemetery.  A group of injured war veterans from Walter Reed Hospital will be honored during the parade and consequent program at the cemetery.  Flags will be flying, marching bands will be piping out beautiful, patriotic tunes, and school children will be carrying armfuls of flowers to decorate the graves of those who so valiantly gave their lives to secure the freedom of our nation.

Thank you to those who have served, and to those who are currently serving our nation.  God bless, and Happy Memorial Day!

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day,
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

~from "The Blue and the Gray" by Francis Miles Finch 

For more information about the Humistons' story, please visit Gettysburg Experience or Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  -- Photo credit:  Catriona Todd