Historians Don't Want Casino Next To Gettysburg National Military Park

Nearly 300 historians are asking Pennsylvania officials to deny a petition that would let a casino be built next to Gettsyburg National Military Park. Civil War Preservation Trust map.

Nearly 300 historians, including some Pulitzer Prize winners, are urging Pennsylvania officials to prevent a casino from being built within a half-mile of Gettysburg National Military Park.

According to the Civil War Preservation Trust, "(A)lthough the proposed casino site along the Emmitsburg Road lies outside the current administrative boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park, it would be on land identified as historically sensitive by the American Battlefield Protection Program, an arm of the National Park Service. The application before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board would retrofit an existing family-friendly hotel complex into a gambling resort with an initial 600 slot machines in addition to table games."

“The proposed site of the casino lies athwart the advance of Union cavalry toward what became known as South Cavalry Field, which saw substantial fighting on the afternoon of July 3, 1863," notes James McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom. "This ground is as hallowed as any other part of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the idea of a casino near the fields and woods where men of both North and South gave the last full measure of devotion is simply outrageous.”

Gettysburg was the backdrop for the bloodiest battle in U.S. history. The Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1–3, 1863, involved nearly 160,000 soldiers, and nearly a third of them became casualties, according to the CWPT.

"Historians concur that the engagement was the greatest of Civil War battles, but its place in history was further cemented four months later, when President Abraham Lincoln traveled to the small Pennsylvania farm town to help dedicate a national cemetery for those who died," the trust notes. "Lincoln’s 'few appropriate remarks' for the occasion, popularly known as the Gettysburg Address, have become one of the world’s most recognized speeches."

The letter of protest, signed by 272 historians, was sent to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board chairman Gregory Fajt.

In part, their message states that as professional historians, they “feel strongly that Gettysburg is a unique historic and cultural treasure deserving of our protection. Gettysburg belongs to all Americans equally—future generations no less than those of us alive today,” before concluding that “there are many places in Pennsylvania to build a casino, but there’s only one Gettysburg.”

Support for the letter also came from the American Historical Association, National Coalition for History, National Council on Public History, Organization of American Historians, Society for Military History and Southern Historical Association.

Comments

I'm not a historian, but they can call upon me to help stand in front of the bulldozers if necessary.

Yet another sad example of how the commercial aspects of our society are one again trying to overrun the cultural aspects. What's next, Wal-Mart on the South Rim???

Casinos are not economic development!! They take from one and give to another and nothing is created. That's not development, that's a shell game.

The only ones who win are the developers themselves. Build it and run away with the cash and who cares about what's left!

This is a double fail: a failure to preserve our historic heritage, and a failure to understand, much less create, economic development.

It's probably a triple depending on whether or not that land is currently forested.

Actually, support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino seems to be growing.

I live in the Gettysburg-Adams County area and while I see a couple of yard signs that oppose the casino, they mostly appear on the lawns of the well-to-do, McMansions.

The great majority of yard signs in support of the casino are quite widespread.

Another thing I've discovered is that there seems to be dozens of small businesses in the Gettysburg-Adams County area that have placards in their storefront windows expressing support for the Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino.

The Civil War was around 150-years ago. Economic Development in a region that has a nearly 10% unemployment rate is today.

And history can survive (and flourish) with up-and-downstream help from 21st Century ideas.

Ah, so if it's 150 years or so in the past, the reverence we hold for such a site should no longer be relevant? I would hope your progeny would not strike you from the family record in so short a time.

I live within about 8 miles of the site of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware, and while it's a State and not a National park, I'd be pretty adamant about the building of a casino or big box store adjacent to this site. I feel similarly about Valley Forge NP, about an hour away.

While I agree that economic development is important, to our country, to its citizens, and to our way of life, surely encroaching within 1/2 mile of such hallowed ground is something worth reconsidering. We should not so easily permit our throw-away consumerist society to despoil our national heritage.

Rap

A casino has been approved for Valley Forge at the Valley Forge Convention Center. It actually shares a boundary with the national park there. The project near Gettysburg is actually farther away and would be added to an existing resort that isn't located on a single inch of the battlefield. It's a shame these historians ignore how 120 acres of land on the battlefield was just sold to a housing developer. This area was the site of some of the most ferocious fighting.

Casinos are NOT economic development. That's the lie used by all of the big gambling companies. Casinos only add the the government coffers in good economic times. What happens when these casinos start failing to bring in the money that the government depends upon? They turn to the taxpayers to make up the shortfall and raise taxes. Just look up Foxwoods, look up Twin Rivers and Newport Grand in Rhode Island, these are some of the prime examples that I personally know of.

Casinos also cause problems in domestic relationships when gambling gets out of hand, I personally know of several divorces because of this and the most tragic circumstance I personally know of is a young, promising young man who lead a double life, was so heavily involved in gambling at casinos that he committed suicide. His parents have had to live with now for over 5 years, the had no clue what was going on.

Casinos do not do any good at all. They are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

A casino is not economic development. Sure, it may provide jobs for a few hundred area folks, but at what cost? Having worked in a casino myself I can tell you it is a sad, depressing place that makes money off of the weak and addicted. It's bad karma for everyone concerned, but the giant flashing green dollar signs are too enticing for most communities to ignore.

As for those concerned about it's proximity to the established boundary of protected area, I say get over it. Those who usually protest development of marginally historic areas are not part of the community, and are usually in a higher economic strata than the people who will benefit from said development, therefor they have the luxury of protest.

While I feel a casino is the wrong choice to make, the community has an obligation to its' citizenry to continually develop the economy of the area for the benefit of all, not just visiting historians, ghost hunters, and reenactors.

It's the Fourth of July, so let's reflect on history a little. 147 years ago today, Lee and his Confederate army were retreating from Gettysburg back to Virginia. What if the battle had ended differently? If Lee's army emerged from Gettysburg victorious, would the Union have lost the war? How would our country look today? I believe that if the Confederacy had won the Civil War that what we now know as the United State would be divided into several small countries. Consider the impact this would have had on history. There would have been no United States to help turn the tide in the World Wars or to stand up to the Soviet Union. We would all be living in a very different world today. Gettysburg isn't just a part of US history, it's a part of world history.
Casinos are a poor form of economic development, often taking money from those who really can't afford to lose it. I'd be interested to know the economic impact of the battlefield, I'm sure it brings millions of dollars to the local economy.

If the casino is allowed to build there, next will be an expansion for a hotel overlooking the area, they will build stores close by and anything else that will "keep" visitors money going to them. The motels and hotels near the Sacred Grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield will close and so will the Mom and Pop businesses. Next a Walmart will file to build nearby and there will be no end for developers.
Gettysburg will NO LONGER BE THE SAME. Big Business is targeting historic lands for their own selfish profits. Don't let it happen to Gettysburg.
Residents and businesses now in the area might have thought to profit from this but that will not be the case. They will be driven out of business and an irreplaceable historic area will be forever marred.
I'm sure there are other properties further away that the casino developers can purchase without harming the battlefield's integrity and agreeable to all parties. Better to offer alternatives.

To quote President Lincoln, Gettysburg is "a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live". And, "we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

To even consider putting a casino anywhere near this historic site is shameful. And, despite their feeble protests, it is a national issue and should be treated as such.

I take issue with the comment that the No Casino signs are only in front of the Mc Mansions - thats bull. I live in Gettysburg and I can tell you that opposition locally is much stronger than supporters would have you believe. They figure if you keep saying it long enough people will believe it. Its a national issue, not a local one. Over 85 businesses have signed a petition against it. Gettysburg will soon be on the back of our 25 cent currency in a few months - if we were not recognized as a National Treasure would that be possible?

Consider what we would say if the French put one next to the beaches at Normandy. And just because they screwed up by putting on near Vallaey Forge does not mean we should repeat the mistake. Do what you can to help stop it.

Amen, SFP