History came to life during the annual interior painting and maintenance at the National Soldier’s Orphan’s Homestead in Gettysburg. A wall in the original dining area was in need of repair, and the decision was made to cut a small hole to see what was behind the drywall. Fortunately, the hole was in an area that revealed plaster, layers of wallpaper, and the original brick. As Laurie Crown, Manager of Ghostly Images and Eric Nelson, Lead Tour Guide and Trainer, worked to uncover the brick, they discovered what appeared to be one side of a window frame. After several days of careful work, three of the original windows were uncovered. The very windows that Major General Oliver O. Howard of the XI Corps perhaps used to monitor the Battle of Gettysburg. The very windows later used by the children of the Orphanage to catch a glimpse of the normal life they once enjoyed, and desperately longed for.
The two-story brick home was built in 1836. It was purchased in 1844 by Captain John Myers and his wife Ester. During the Battle of Gettysburg, it served as the headquarters of Major General Oliver O. Howard, and as a field hospital. In 1866 the house was chosen as the site for the National Orphanage and purchased by the National Association of Philadelphia under the direction of Dr. John Francis Bourns. The Soldier’s Orphan’s Homestead was officially dedicated on November 20, 1866.
The Orphanage is now owned Gettysburg Heritage Enterprises and is the headquarters for Ghostly Images Tours.
More to come on the history of the National Orphanage.
Photo and Blog by Christina Rowand