Cultural Landscapes In the Town of Gettysburg

The town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania is filled with a variety of cultural landscapes and events of all types.  As we discussed in class cultural landscapes use the past as a way to explain the present. The following cultural landscapes, we feel, play a very large part in sculpting the way people look at the town of Gettysburg today.

The first cultural landscape I would like to touch on is the David Wills House. This was the place where Abraham Lincoln stayed to put the final touches on the most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. The David Wills House stands to represent the President’s historical visit to the devastated town of Gettysburg. Today, the David Wills House is a museum reminding those who visit of the hope and relief the town of Gettysburg felt when their President visited. The house has recreated the David Wills Law Office and The Lincoln Bedroom, preserving the famous cultural landscape and all it’s history.

The second cultural landscape I would like to address is that of the ‘hub’ of Gettysburg. There is numerous roads coming in and out of the town of Gettysburg. One of the most famous parts of the Gettysburg hub is the train station. Abraham Lincoln arrived to Gettysburg via that same train station on November 18th 1863. The train station became a symbol of hope and their way of escape from the horrible battles that took place in Gettysburg.

Many people look to the Gettysburg battlefields to find history of the bloody battles that were fought during the Civil War. While this is true for many cases, the battles were not confined to just the battlefields. The battles spilled into the town of Gettysburg. Innocent civilians were killed by stray bullets often. Many were forced to take cover in their basements as gunfire ripped through the living room right above their heads. This event that took place in the town of Gettysburg is very striking to me and defines the cultural landscape the best. As many people fear guns and weapons on the battlefield, I can only imagine the fear that was experienced by those with battles happening outside and through their own houses.

The David Wills House :: Photos :: The David Wills House

The David Wills House, February 2009.

Dowling, Bill February 2009, The David Wills House Photo Gallery, Powered By Orases



Gettysburg Train Station Photograph  - Gettysburg Train Station Fine Art Print

The Gettysburg Train Station April 18th 2011.

Mathis, Tamara, “Gettysburg Train Station”, April 18, 2011, Fine Art America by Tamara Mathis




Defining a Cultural Landscape

In class, we have been discussing ideas presented in the book, History is in the Land: Multivocal Tribal Traditions in Arizona’s San Pedro Valley by T. J. Ferguson and Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh (2006, University of Arizona Press). The authors put forth a definition of what time and space equal when dealing with the culture and history of the Native Americans who have resided in the San Pedro Valley for thousands of years. Time and space are very different from each other, but together can be grouped into three broad categories: absolute, relational, and representational.
These three groups of time and space can not only be applied to the valleys of Arizona, but can also be applied when discussing the cultural landscape of the town of Gettysburg, PA.
First it might be helpful to define what absolute, relational, and representational time and space are. After much discussion between our group, we collaborated on the similarities and differences of the three. 
Absolute time is best defined as a measured amount of time, like an hour, day, week, or year. Absolute time is linear, and does not stop, but is limited with boundaries. When dealing with Gettysburg, PA, absolute time could be the year of 1786, the year in which Gettysburg was first settled ( Absolute space deals with physical location, defined by geographic features of the landscape. Like absolute time, absolute space can also be measured. The fact that Gettysburg, PA is 159 meters above sea level (, or that it is 1.7 square miles in area, are all examples of the town’s absolute space (
Relational time and space are slightly different. Relational time is not linear, but can be represented by events that are notable to an area or a person of the area. For instance, the time in which the railroad was being built through the town is relational. Without years, it was a period important to the people who lived in the town at the time. Relational space has its own meaning as well. Maps of the town of Gettysburg can be relational, there could be maps that deal with the history of a certain time, and include locations like the railroad tracks or the train station. There could be maps that deal with industry, showing places like restaurants and shopping centers. 
The third group of time and space is representational. Representational time is best defined as a period of time not known for its place on the linear plane, but for its symbolism of history or culture. In Gettysburg, representational time could be the 1863 battle, or the time when President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in the National Cemetery. Representational space, likewise, represents a symbol of great importance that helps define the town. An example of that in Gettysburg could be the David Wills House or the Jennie Wade House, both destinations for tourism that are famous in the town because of their role in the history of Gettysburg. 
All three groups of time and space are important to understanding the cultural landscape that we know as Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 



The Beginning

Most people see the town of Gettysburg as the site of the one of the bloodiest battles in American History. However, the town of Gettysburg had a rich cultural history long before the soldiers wearing blue and grey swept through its streets. The purpose of this blog is to examine and follow the cultural evolution of the town of Gettysburg from the time of the Iroquois, through the Civil War, and the 150 years following. Did you know that the land in this area was purchased from the Iroquois? Or that Gettysburg itself was a melting pot of nationalities? We hope that we can help you to learn about the cultural landscape of the town of Gettysburg as we ourselves learn along the way.