Reinventing History

When Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania launched a multimillion-dollar renovation of the historic Gettysburg Hotel last year, the main objective was clear—give the property a fresh, modern look while paying homage to the heritage of its location and structure.

The college, which owns the 119-room boutique hotel, enlisted the services of Baskervill, a full-service design and architecture firm based in Richmond, Va., to re-conceptualize the public spaces, guestrooms, meeting rooms, and hotel restaurant. The firm focused on a style dubbed “New American Traditional,” and worked to incorporate the rich history of the property without making it feel like a museum, says Jennifer Farris, interior designer for Baskervill.

Opened as a tavern in 1797, the Gettysburg Hotel played witness to the Civil War’s defining battle in 1863. Sitting steps away from where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, the hotel continued to be a focal point in the culture and development of the town. After a fire ripped through the property in 1983, Gettysburg College purchased and rebuilt it as part of a downtown revitalization project. The recent renovation, the first of its kind since 1991, is meant to reposition the property in the upscale sector.

“We wanted to surprise and delight people with the experience of the hotel,” Farris says. “Some of the things that we were really trying to touch on were the experiences of early American educational environments and well traveled people. We wanted to include an eclectic sense of found objects and unique pieces that were maybe a little bit out of context.”


The lobby was overhauled with scraped walnut wood floors, traditional chairs with unexpected patterns, a cozy business center, and splashes of orange and blue—the official colors of Gettysburg College. The hotel tavern was expanded into the lobby and rebranded as One Lincoln, a space that takes its cues from the country’s 16th president. The guestrooms and corridors were all given new treatments and artwork.

Farris says the little, unexpected touches are what bring the renovation to life and give it the personality of an upscale boutique property. In the lobby, a historic map that hangs over the fireplace depicts the exact location of the hotel back in the 1700s. Baskervill layered colorblocking techniques over top of the map, which was found in the Getty image archive, to give it a more modern, graphic feel.

In the hotel restaurant, the firm used copper as an accent—a subtle reference to Lincoln’s place on the penny. One Lincoln also features a new, blown-up wall covering where the Gettysburg Address is scrawled out in large, graphic letters.

In the guestrooms, the firm created a custom pillow for the beds that blends a traditional textile with bright, bold colors. And all guestroom corridors now feature different artwork on each floor, consisting of old botanical prints and maps that were digitally altered to make them more current.
The renovation was not without its challenges. The hotel consists of four historic buildings and 86 unique room types. Planning a design to work and function in every guestroom was not an easy task. “Each guestroom has a different layout, a different configuration of windows, and different measurements,” Farris says. “We basically had to come up with a way to create a furniture package that could be modified and work throughout all the rooms.”

Baskervill focused on creating a homey feel in both the hotel lobby and the guestrooms. The firm used neutral colors and chose furniture pieces that resembled those prevalent in residential design. Farris says that because the Gettysburg Hotel is a boutique instead of a branded property, the firm had a lot more flexibility with the design process. “It still has to function in every way most efficiently as a hotel, because that is our primary purpose in this instance,” she says. “But we wanted to spin the story so that it felt we were welcoming people into the living room of someone’s home.”

The renovations were finished in time for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. A series of commemorative events in the town will kick off in June.

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