Investing in Our Past spotlights a historic building that has been repurposed, demonstrating the economic value of preservation and reuse.

A historic school building in Gettysburg, Adams County, is being given a new lease on life through a Keystone Historic Preservation Grant, awarded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The High Street School, completed in 1858 as the community’s first consolidated public school building, was based on plans by noted Philadelphia architect, Samuel Sloan (1815-1884). Sloan’s two-volume classic, The Model Architect, published in 1852 and 1853, provided the inspiration for the local builders. Although the building’s original tower has disappeared, the building retains its remarkable architectural integrity.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, waged the first three days of July 1863, the building was used as a field hospital for dozens of wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. (The number of wounded, missing, and dead totaled fifty-one thousand.) “The Union men occupied the first floor and the Confederates the second floor,” noted Dr. Abraham Stout, surgeon of the 153rd Pennsylvania Infantry. The building, exposed to the constant fighting between skirmish lines, prompted Private Justus Silliman of the 17th Connecticut Infantry to recall ”bullets .. . rattling against our hospital, making a great racket.” The High Street School was used as a hospital for three weeks, until an order came to move the patients to Harrisburg, and the building returned to its original purpose.

The building served as a school for nearly one hundred years, until 1955, when it was sold to a local businessman. In 1999, the Adams County Housing Authority acquired the historic building to house offices and public meeting rooms.

A Keystone Historic Preservation grant will provide matching funds for the repainting of the exterior masonry, repair of the roof and gutters, and restoration of the original windows, doors, and cornices.

Keystone Historic Preservation grants are available to nonprofit organizations and local governments to preserve or restore historic resources listed in, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. The grants are competitive and require matching funds. Grants are available in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Deadline for grant applications is May 1, 2006.