On September 1, 1855, the cornerstone was laid for the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, the same day Peter and Elizabeth Thorn were married. The Thorns, who both emigrated from Germany, moved into the Gatehouse in February, 1856 after Peter was hired as the first caretaker of the cemetery for an annual salary of one hundred and fifty dollars. Unlike many of Gettysburg’s notable historic buildings, the Gatehouse, to this day, is still used for its original purpose: to house the caretaker of the cemetery.
The managers of Evergreen Cemetery decided to grace the entrance way to the cemetery with a unique form of architecture for a small town cemetery. Philadelphia architect, Stephen Button gave Gettysburg its first example of funerary style architecture as the Gatehouse was built to represent the gates of heaven. The Italianate structure’s brick and stonework were painted burgundy and the cornice a dark chocolate brown. Included on the building were wreaths painted green and a white urn. Built for a cost of $1,025.00, the Gatehouse would eight years later become the most identifiable architectural landmark from the Battle of Gettysburg.
Generals Sickles, Slocum and Howard held council at the Gatehouse on the evening of July 1, 1863. Elizabeth Thorn was forced to flee her home before the assault on Cemetery Hill and upon her return, went on to bury ninety-one soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg. The building was a favorite subject of the Civil War photographers and is seen in the photos of the crowd gathered to hear Abraham Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.
Throughout the years, the Gatehouse has remained an iconic building representing the Battle of Gettysburg. Like the four photography firms that came to Gettysburg following the battle, today many visitors capture an image of the Gatehouse on their tour over the battlefield.
The founders of the cemetery never could have imagined the status that the Gatehouse would attain. Although their vision was to grace the cemetery with an extraordinary structure, the main focus was to create a citizens cemetery for the Gettysburg community. Though the cemetery maintains an endowment fund for the perpetual care of the cemetery and its grounds, previously there not been a fund to preserve one of the nation’s most historic Civil War-era buildings. Currently, monies from the general funds are used for the upkeep of the structure,
In the immediate future, the Gatehouse will need extensive work to repair the aging brick along with other repairs so that the building may be rehabilitated in the proper manner. Care and costs will only increase in the coming years as the Board of Trustees act as good stewards in preserving this historic building.
The Evergreen Cemetery Board of Trustees has created an Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund that will be used for immediate and long term rehabilitation and maintenance of the structure. We hope that you would consider a donation to help preserve this national treasure so that future generations can enjoy and learn our treasured history.
The Evergreen Cemetery Association is a non-profit 501(c)(13) organization formed in April,1854. Any donation to the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund is a tax-deductible contribution.
Thank you for your support!
Evergreen Cemetery Board of Trustees
Brian Kennell, Superintendent
Ways to Support the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund
If you wish to contribute by check, please make your check payable to: Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund.
Checks can be mailed to:
Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund
799 Baltimore Street
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Or, you can donate online via PayPal by clicking the link below with all proceeds going to the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse Fund.