Gettysburg National Tower

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gettysburg National Tower
General information
Status Demolished
Type observation deck
Location Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Coordinates 39°48′54″N 77°13′50″W / 39.81500°N 77.23056°W / 39.81500; -77.23056Coordinates: 39°48′54″N 77°13′50″W / 39.81500°N 77.23056°W / 39.81500; -77.23056
Construction started 1972
Completed 1974
Opening July 29, 1974
Demolished July 3, 2000
Cost $2.5 million USD
Antenna spire 120 m (390 ft)
Top floor 94 m (307 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 4
Lifts/elevators 2[1]
Design and construction
Developer Thomas R. Ottenstein

The Gettysburg National Tower was a 307-foot (94 m) hyperboloid observation tower that overlooked the Gettysburg National Military Park and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from 1974 to 2000.[3] The privately owned tower attracted many of the battlefield's visitors, who paid a fee to access its observation decks.[2] Controversial even before it opened, the structure was eventually seized by eminent domain and demolished.


The tower was built in 1974 on private land adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park by real-estate developer Thomas R. Ottenstein. It was opposed by many, including the National Park Service, historical preservationists, and locals.[2][4] The governor of Pennsylvania at the time, Milton Shapp, led unsuccessful lawsuits against construction of the tower.[5] The Park Service had no authority over the tower since it was not inside the park.[6]

A law passed in 1990 claimed the land of the tower as part of the park and in June 2000 a federal judge gave park officials permission to seize the tower itself with $3 million given as compensation to the owners.[2] The Gettysburg National Tower was demolished with explosives by Controlled Demolition, Inc. for the National Park Service on July 3, 2000, the 137th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.[3] The public was invited to attend the demolition, and an event was staged to make it appear as though cannon fire caused the tower to fall. A video of the demolition shows the event.

Construction and design[edit]

The tower had a patented hyperboloid design,[7] which was checked by computer simulation on a CDC 6600 mainframe to verify its integrity.[8][9] The bottom diameter was 94 feet (29 m), it narrowed to 36 feet (11 m) in the middle, and spread outward for a top diameter of 78 feet (24 m).[9] The main pieces were assembled using the largest crane available at the time and were bolted together rather than just welded. During the debate regarding the tower, its engineer, Joel Rosenblatt, argued that its design was significant enough for preservation in its own right.[8]

Running up inside the hyperbolic lattice were elevators and a 520-step staircase leading to the observation decks.[9] The observation area consisted of two air-conditioned indoor levels and two open-air decks at the very top, featuring binoculars and information about the historical significance of the sights. Ottenstein hailed it as a "classroom in the sky", but detractors said its size and visibility made it overly prominent.[4]


  1. ^ "The Gettysburg National Tower". Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d Strawley, George (2000-07-04). "1970s Tower at Gettysburg Demolished". AP. Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. 
  3. ^ a b c Latschar, John (2001). "The Taking of the Gettysburg Tower" (PDF). The George Wright Forum. 18 (1): 24–33. 
  4. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang (2000-08-05). "Thomas R. Ottenstein, 70; Built Belittled Tower at Gettysburg". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Simonich, Milan (2000-06-22). "Besieged Gettysburg tower to come tumbling down". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. B–4. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  6. ^ Tranel, Michael J.; Hall, Adrienne (2004). "Parks as Battlegrounds: Managing Conflicting Values". In Harmon, David; Kilgore, Bruce M.; Vietzke, Gay E. Protecting Our Diverse Heritage (PDF). Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society. p. 65. 
  7. ^ US patent D227448, Joel H. Rosenblatt, "Tower", issued June 26, 1973 
  8. ^ a b Lyons, Sheridan (June 20, 2000). "Towering loss for engineer". The Baltimore Sun. 
  9. ^ a b c "Says Tower Here is 'Bold New Concept'". The Gettysburg Times. June 17, 1971.