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Presidents make their mark in Gettysburg, Pa.

Celebrate Presidents Day Weekend, explore connections to U.S. leaders

11/22/2017

It’s November 18, 1863. The town of Gettysburg is still cleaning up after the epic Civil War battle that swept through just four months earlier. The townspeople gather downtown awaiting the arrival of the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, invited to deliver “a few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of a national cemetery the next day.

Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was undoubtedly short, but his trip north not only turned this small town from a place of tragedy into a symbol of hope, but secured the president’s own legacy with his monumental speech, titled “The Gettysburg Address.”

Fifty-two years later, in 1915, a young Dwight Eisenhower arrived in Gettysburg as part of a class trip with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’d return just a few years later to train at Camp Colt, the U.S. Army Tank Corps Training Center on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Eisenhower left Gettysburg and began a new chapter in his life as a five-star general in World War II. Following the war, he and his wife Mamie, fondly remembering their days in this small Pennsylvania town, returned to Gettysburg and purchased a farm in 1950.

When Eisenhower was elected as the 34th President of the United States in 1952, the Gettysburg farm became a getaway for the first family – welcoming both family as well as world leaders. Over the next 15 years, the Eisenhowers spent a lot of time in Gettysburg, eventually retiring to the farm after Ike’s presidency.

Today, Gettysburg is a place that affectionately remembers its ties to the “highest office in the land.”

Visitors from around the world follow closely in Lincoln’s footsteps as he paraded down Baltimore Street to the cemetery and delivered what would later become one of the most remembered speeches in history, or step foot into Eisenhower’s enclosed patio where he and the first lady would relax to watch episodes of “I Love Lucy” while enjoying their TV dinners.

Throughout the town lies relics of presidential pasts including the Majestic Theater where Eisenhower would hold press conferences, the David Wills House where Lincoln put the finishing touches on his famous speech or the “Return Visit” statue, considered the most accurate depiction of the 16th President in the world.

It’s March 1963, nearly a hundred years after the Battle of Gettysburg. President John F. Kennedy tours the Civil War battlefield, including places where his own ancestors in the famous Irish Brigade fought. After stopping at several locations like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den and The Wheatfield, the tour ended at the Eternal Light Peace Monument which symbolizes the reuniting of the North and South with an eternal light atop the monument. Both President Kennedy and his wife Jackie greatly admired the monument.

President Kennedy was asked to speak later that year at the 100th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1963, but he had to decline because he needed to visit Dallas to mend political fences.

As history goes, Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22 while in Dallas. Remembering their visit earlier that year, the First Lady said that she wanted a peace light for her husband’s memorial, just like the one in Gettysburg. The Gettysburg monument was used to design John F. Kennedy’s memorial in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

That eternal flame still burns in Gettysburg – providing visitors to the battlefield with a reminder of both a unification of the nation as well as a presidential connection that few have made to Kennedy’s grave marker in Arlington.

Many presidents have made the 90-minute trip north to Gettysburg from the White House in Washington D.C. Only about 25 miles from Camp David, the Gettysburg battlegrounds are often enticing attraction for presidents to bring dignitaries from near and far.

Gettysburg invites you to celebrate this Presidents Day Weekend, February 16-19, 2018.

There are many inns, bed and breakfasts and hotels in Gettysburg that feature Presidents Day Weekend packages. Gettysburg’s famous Gettysburg Hotel, est. 1797, offers a “Memories of Lincoln” package which includes a tour of the David Wills House, dinner for two at One Lincoln Food & Spirits, a complimentary coffee table book on the life and impact of Lincoln and a tour with a Licensed Town Historian to showcase Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg in 1863.

Destination Gettysburg, the official destination marketing organization, markets Gettysburg – Adams County as a premier travel destination, producing a positive economic impact.

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