One of my favorite tour experiences in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the extensive Schriver House Museum found on downtown Baltimore Street. I would definitely recommend this place to old-house enthusiasts, history lovers, and anyone who loves Victorian decor. After the transition from rundown old house to fantastic 19th century home was complete, the beauty and charm of Baltimore Street increased tenfold. Schriver House Museum, built in 1860 just before its owner George Washington Schriver went off to war, has been restored to look much as it did during the battle in 1863. For years, if you drove Baltimore Street, you would see an ugly green exterior with little care taken in preservation, but the house is now one of the most beautiful in town.
The first thing you will want to do is walk down the side path (to the left of the building) and see all the bullet and cannonball holes in the old brick walls. It really gives you a feeling of how old the house truly is and what it was a witness to. After entering, you will be given a guided tour (ours was a woman dressed in a Civil War-era gown) of all the stories in the house, from the cellar to the attic. Unfortunately, I was asked not to take photos, and I don’t know if this rule is still in effect. You can, however, buy postcards that portray some of the rooms in the house. The cellar is a dismal place where barrels are stored, but you can also find George Schriver’s saloon. He also operated a Ten Pin Alley on the premises. Bottles and tables sit much as they did over 140 years ago, as though Hettie Schriver and her daughters never returned after they fled the battle.
Three of the most striking restored rooms, at least in my opinion, were Sadie and Mollie’s bedroom (the Schrivers’ two girls, five and seven in 1863), Hettie’s bedroom, and the expansive Victorian kitchen filled with all kinds of cooking ingredients and utensils. In the bedrooms you will see a hint of the modern, like familiar toys and games, mixed with other things you may not be so familiar with, such as the chamber pot under the bed! You may appreciate the beautiful dark wood furniture in George and Hettie’s room, contrasting sharply with the polished wood floors. There are many other rooms you can see, like the sitting room, the parlor, and the work room. Outside a garden can be found. I have always appreciated the old-fashioned beauty of wallpaper in 19th century homes, and some of the decor chosen for the Schriver House’s walls is certainly elegant.
You may get a creepy feeling when your guide takes you to the attic; dark and damp, it seems isolated from the rest of the house. It is a known fact that sharpshooters from the South took up residence here during the battle, sending death missiles to Union soldiers, and that at least one man probably died in the attic. Artifacts found in the attic attest to the sharpshooters’ presence. You may find yourself glad to get out of this particular part of the house (unless you are a ghost-hunter or paranormal enthusiast, in which case it may be your favorite part). When you go back downstairs again, don’t forget to view the display cases that house items found throughout the home. The Schriver House Museum gift shop is also worth a browse; there will be many gift ideas for you or someone else who loves history. Be sure to ask any questions you may have, either during your tour or at the ticket counter.
The George Washington Schriver House Museum is located at 309 Baltimore Street. Admission (in Sept 2006) is $4.75 for kids younger than 12, and $6.95 for adults. You can take a group to the Schriver House but special rules apply and you will have to visit their official website to check it out. Remember to find the pictures of George, Hettie, Mollie, and Sadie on the site, too; it’s fascinating to see the people that actually lived in the house you will be touring. Sadly, you will also discover that George died in a prison camp during the war. Hettie later remarried and is buried in another state.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer