For Immediate Release: 06/09/00
Civil War Preservation Trust Applauds Planned Demolition of Gettysburg Tower
CWPT President James Lighthizer calls the tower a 'poster child' for battlefield encroachment
(Arlington, Va.) - The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), America's largest battlefield preservation organization, today applauded the planned demolition of the notorious "National Tower" on the Gettysburg battlefield. The 307-foot tower, a source of controversy for nearly three decades, is scheduled to be razed on July 3, 2000, the 137th anniversary of the cataclysmic battle that marked the turning point of the Civil War.
"The National Tower has loomed over the battlefield far too long," remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Its impact is equivalent to hanging a neon beverage sign on the Washington Monument. The tower is a steel monstrosity that should never have been built."
According to Lighthizer, the tower is considered the "poster child" for battlefield encroachment. The hourglass-shaped structure dominates an otherwise pastoral setting where North and South clashed in the climactic battle of the Civil War. Today, music from the tower's loudspeakers can be heard from the spot in the Soldier's National Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address. "The destruction of the tower will be the fulfillment of a dream for countless battlefield enthusiasts," Lighthizer said.
Aesthetics are not the only reason the tower is loathed by the preservation community. In exchange for an agreement that provided vehicle access to the privately owned tower, the National Park Service was supposed to receive 5 percent of the tower's profits - money intended for battlefield maintenance and preservation. However, despite ticket sales of more than $300,000 per year, the tower's owners insist they have never made a profit. "In the 26 years since the tower's opening, neither the park service nor its nonprofit counterpart, the National Park Foundation, has ever received a dime from the agreement," Lighthizer noted.
Removal of the tower has been a long-standing goal of CWPT and one of its predecessor organizations, The Civil War Trust. Over the years, CWPT has worked closely with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg to raise awareness and seek funding to demolish the eyesore.
Press reports indicate that the tower will be toppled by explosives and later disassembled. Its former location will then be restored to its 1863 appearance. "It is the best possible solution," Lighthizer stated. "The tower's long shadow will no longer hang over the final resting place of the brave defenders of Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top."
With 35,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism.