Maintenance Under the National Park Service
When the National Park Service took charge of the Gettysburg National
Cemetery in 1933, it received all of the War Department's maintenance needs.
Contrary to the opinions of Park Service personnel, 74 however, the War
Department had done a creditable job up until its last thirty years of
administration. But those last decades were definitely not up to the maintenance
standards of the pre-20th century cemetery force. It was necessary, therefore,
to concentrate "emergency conservation work" upon the resources of Gettysburg
Parts of the Park's C.C.C. labor force were assigned to the cemetery
for various work projects. Among these were the jobs of resetting the granite
and marble headstones, treating the cemetery's historic trees, repairing
the roads, and installing drain lines. Another project undertaken by the
crew was the razing of the iron railing fence dividing Evergreen and the
73 Ibid., requests for February 1932.
74 Louis E. King, "The Gettysburg National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pa.:
An Exposition of Emergency Conservation Work Projects," GNMP vertical files.,
"After the establishment of the Cemetery and up until August, 1933,
at which time the Gettysburg National Cemetery and the Gettysburg National
Military Park were transferred to the National Park Service, little or
no improvements and construction in the Cemetery were made. As a result
of this 'Laissez faire' policy, the Cemetery began to take on an appearance
unbecoming to a National Shrine. It was this situation that led to the
formulation of a program for the improvement and conservation of this historic
The old gas-pipe fence was considered "neither artistic in character nor
valuable from a utilitarian viewpoint," 75 and was considered expendable
during the National Park Service's initial "beautification" programs for
the park and cemetery. It is doubtful whether the Park Service considered
the "open fence" stipulation guaranteed to Evergreen Cemetery when they
determined the fate of the gas-pipe fence. However, the National Park Service
fulfilled the verbal stipulation (intentionally or unintentionally) when
it proposed to relocate the Lafayette Square iron fence from East Cemetery
Hill to the National Cemetery in its stead.
The Lafayette Square iron fence had been donated to the Gettysburg
Battlefield Memorial Association by a joint resolution of Congress on October
12, 1888 through the efforts of Daniel Sickles. 76 Originally enclosing
Lafayette Square in Washington, the fence was declared to be no longer
needed by District of Columbia authorities, and prompted Sickles to urge
the Congressional resolution giving the ornamental fence over to the Gettysburg
preservation and memorial group.
On July 12, 1889 the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association resolved
that "so much of the iron fence, donated by the U. S. Government, be used
as is necessary to enclose the front of East Cemetery Hill to Slocum Avenue,
and by said avenue to the turn to Culp's Hill, and that it be erected unpainted,
in granite blocks, and according to the lay of the land, the contractor
to furnish any castings that are necessary." 77 This fence was eventually
75 Ibid., p. 6.
76 Frederick Tilberg, "Historic Cemetery Survey Report" (June 24, 1958),
GNMP vertical files, p. 11.
77 Minutes of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association,
July 12, 1889, p. 193 (GNMP library).
after April of 1890 by the firm of Gilbert and Smith. It was envisioned
that three gates would be placed along the Baltimore Pike and one along
Slocum Avenue (where it joined Wainwright Avenue or Brickyard Lane at the
base of East Cemetery Hill).78
This old East Cemetery Hill/Lafayette Square fence was taken down
by the Park Service in the end of 1933 and beginning of 1934 and re-erected
along the line once occupied by the gas-pipe division fence. In April of
1934 the fencing was cleaned and painted on its relocated site. 79 In September
of the following year the fence received another coat of paint, 80 apparently
its last painting of the 1930s. No known Park or cemetery records exist
indicating later additional labor devoted to the Lafayette Square fencing.
As of date, the fence has not seen any kind of cyclic maintenance within
at least the past five years, and is in a deteriorated condition. The paint
is worn and peeling, while the iron itself has become pitted and rusted.
Many of the heavy finials connecting the panels, as well as the tops of
many pickets, are missing, broken, or ajar.
The Baltimore Pike fence has not fared much better under the Park Service.
Whereas the War Department labor force tried to paint and clean this front
fence on the average of every 3-4 years, the National Park Service has
virtually curtailed any cyclic maintenance to the fencing and entranceway.
After February 1932 the fencing itself was apparently not given any kind
of major cleaning or repainting. In 1935 the ornamentation on the Baltimore
Pike and Taneytown Road
entranceways were coated with "bronze paint,"81 but no mention was made
of applying black paint to the remainder of the gates or fencing. For the
1938 fiscal year, the superintendent could report that the walls and the
fencing were "in very good condition" and needed very little maintenance,
but no mention was made in any reports of any kind of routine maintenance
which would have included cyclical repainting.
78 Gettysburg Compiler, April 8, 1890.
79 Superintendent's Monthly Reports, GNMP library, April 1934.
80 Ibid., September 1935.
In 1939 it was finally decided to widen the gateway on the front entrance.
This idea was first proposed to the War Department during the summer of
1923, 82 after an auto accident in 1917 resulted in damaging the gates,
followed by several near-damaging accidents in subsequent years. During
the month of April 1939 one of the C.C.C. camps here commenced work widening
the gateways from fourteen feet to twenty feet by resetting the old pillars,
relocating the gateposts and replacing the old gates with new ones. 83
Clarence Nett, the superintendent at that time, considered the widening
of the entranceway to be the greatest improvement to the National Cemetery
during his administration up to that time. 84 After the job was done, finishing
touches were added by repainting the black and "bronze" of the gateposts
and gates. The Taneytown Road gateway was widened in October-November of
1950, by eliminating the iron gateposts altogether and affixing a longer
pair of gates to the granite posts.
In January of 1943, a 78-year-old Norway Spruce was uprooted by high
winds and damaged one panel of the Baltimore Pike fencing. This was repaired,
by welding.85 No further mention was made in existing records of Park maintenance
to the Baltimore Pike fencing and entranceway, except that the brick sidewalk
at the entrance was reconstructed with a concrete base on a sand cushion
from July to October 1939 by the Works Progress Administration. 86 This
work was necessary to conform to the alteration in widening the gates.
81 Ibid., May 1935.
82 Letters Sent, August 17, 1923 (with illustration of proposed
83 Superintendent's Monthly Reports, April and May, 1939.
84 Ibid., May 1939.
The worst victim of cyclical negligence was that enclosure which was
predicted to "withstand time's ravages for centuries to come"--the stone
wall. No notice was taken whatsoever in the records of repointing or any
other care to the wall from 1933-1943. Park records for ensuing years are
non-extant and skimpy at best. The only recent maintenance noted was a
two-man crew working for one week's time repointing sections of the wall
in 1962. 87 The absence of adequate pointing in the rubble wall and coping
joints has contributed to the deterioration of the wall and has helped
lead to the threatened condition of this "substantial" enclosure. A visit
by National Park Service architect A. Franzen in 1969 confirmed that the
major source of weakening in the wall was attributed to the faulty pointing
(see Appendix A), and recommended then that over 25% of the northwest wall
would have to be rebuilt to correct the bulging caused by water entering
the joints. This proposed work was never undertaken, although a 10-238
proposal (Package #110) to rehabilitate the historic stone wall (as well
as the Baltimore Pike and Lafayette Square iron fences) was submitted in
1973. The wisdom of budgetary priorities pushed back the starting date
for emergency construction work until 1978 when $40,000 for repair of the
wall has been provided. Since these funds will allow for an estimated 375
feet of wall repair. It is likely that by 1984 when the wall repair can
be completed based upon 375 feet per year (after six more winters
86 Ibid., July-October 1939.
87 Weekly Summaries (early version of Cannon's Roar), October
of water seeping into the exposed joints and freezing) whole sections of
this wall will collapse. Already, since the 1973 10-238, four sections
of the wall have collapsed, and at least ten times that many sections have
bulged severely, threatening collapse.
The iron fencing, also included within the same 10-238 Package #110
proposal, also has serious structural problems. The Baltimore Pike fence
is substantially solid as far as the posts, but individual pickets and
other parts of the panels are broken, rusted through, loosened, and otherwise
unsightly. The relocated Lafayette Square fencing has already begun to
collapse due to inadequate support and rusted bases. Both fences as well
as the gates are pitted severely by corrosion due to lack of attention
and cyclical maintenance, including a thorough cleaning and painting. Because
of the extent of the corrosion, due to the elimination of the protective
paint coating, it is questionable whether standard scraping and cleaning
techniques could possibly help the pickets and posts. The iron gateposts
reflect this same deteriorated and unseemly appearance, one gatepost even
having its interior exposed for a year now after a car accident broke away
part of its north panel. The eagles, urns, and inscriptions have not been
gilded or "bronzed" for decades, and the urns especially are rusting through
completely. (This is in contrast to operations at Antietam National Cemetery,
whose enclosures look as good today as 100 years ago).