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Famous Abraham Lincoln Re-Enactor And His Hotel

Updated on October 6, 2015

Gettysburg National Battlefield, Museum, and Military Park

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A Hotel Becomes a Landmark and Leads To Lincoln

Samuel Gettys (English for the Irish "Getty") was the founder of the American Civil War site, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania around 1786 after the Revolutionary War was assured to be well over. He owned land at this time, but was financial unstable after the war. The community's first name was Gettystown when his son James Gettys (Getty) successfully sold parcels of land and saved the family from despair.

The family became famous, as did their namesake city and a likely descendant who became the foremost Lincoln re-enactor on the East Coast of the United States.

In 1804, James sold land to Mr. Robert Troxell, who erected a tavern on the property and called it Sign of the Buck. By 1863, deep into the war, the tavern had expanded to become the Union Hotel - note the name Union in a state belonging to the Confederacy.

After the three devastating days of battle at Gettysburg, the Union Hotel became a hospital. By 1888, the hotel was a tourist attraction called the City Hotel, wandered over by visitors from around the country who wanted to touch the grounds and hospital of Gettysburg.

If you have seen Daniel Day Lewis riding across those battlefields on horseback as Abraham Lincoln, you will have an inkling of the cold and haunting, ghostly ambiance of the grounds. Thrill seekers wanted to see it in 1888 as veterans gathered there for the 25th Anniversary of the battle. Gettysburg enjoyed a business increase that week.

The Gettys/Getty family became famous, as did their namesake city and a probable descendant who became the foremost Lincoln re-enactor on the East Coast of the United States.

The Gettys Hotel B & B

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James Gettys Hotel, 27 Chambersburg Street, Gettysburg PA:
27 Chambersburg St, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA

get directions

For those who enjoy the supernatural, the Gettys Hotel is known among tourists as having a haunted room. A "Ghost Quest" weekend has been popular with visitors, as is a special Lincoln Weekend.

National Historic Register Plaque Outside the B & B

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20th and 21st Century Changes

The hotel turned a good business during the Reconstruction Era, particularly lucrative later from 1920 to the 1960s, as American families began the great caravan of automobile tours we now take for granted. They are even parodied by comedy films like National Lampoon's Vacation and the 2015 sequel, Vacation.

The decades of the 1970s and 1980s saw the building become an apartment high-rise, but the next decade saw a Youth Hostel there. It was renamed in 1995 as the James Gettys Hotel (actually a B & B) and has been places on the US National Register of Historic Places.

This hotel and its founder are not the only famous Gettys/Getty in Gettysburg. Another Getty, possibly a descendant of Samuel and James, was a most famous Abraham Lincoln actor.

Gettys Hotel Video Tour

Gettysburg National Battlefield, Cemetery, and Military Park

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Gettysburg National Military Park:
Gettysburg National Military Park, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA

get directions

Gettysburg Historical Attractions and Re-Enactors

The President Dwight D. Eisenhower National Historic Site is located near the other Gettysburg history attractions, just to the southwest of them. All of these locations are nearby the Gettys Hotel B & B and other recommended accommodations for visiting Gettysburg, especially during the Annual Battle of Gettysburg Re-Enactment.

Civil War re-enactors and living history actors populate the historic sites of Gettysburg and preserve accurate American history as they help us remember the important people of a national past. Such re-enactors have become important in accurate film portrayals of Abraham Lincoln and his administration as well.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

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Eisenhower National Historic Site:
Eisenhower National Historic Site, 243 Eisenhower Farm Rd, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA

get directions

The Embodiment of Lincoln Today

The Lincoln Forum leadership and members were devastated in September, 2015 to learn that actor James Getty, known as Gettysburg's most famous resident in the 21st century, had died at age 83. He embodied Abraham Lincoln fully as he performed the Gettysburg Address at each annual celebration of the anniversary of the related Civil War Battle.

Someone else will need to portray Lincoln for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania beginning in 2016. Lincoln himself lived only to to age 56, while Getty lived an additional three decades and was still believable at the 16th President.

For those who admire Abraham Lincoln and like to learn more about the American Civil War, The Lincoln Forum is an organization that collects ongoing research out this respected US President. Teachers and students can enjoy its many events, but anyone is welcomed to subscribe free-of-charge to benefit from its newsletters.

Other offerings include symposia, tours, re-enactments, author presentations like Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, and other events. If not for the regular communications and announcements from this organization, many of us would not have known about the passing of Jim Getty.

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James Getty as Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg.Abraham Lincoln
James Getty as Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg.
James Getty as Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg.
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln | Source
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Unforgettable As Lincoln

The unforgettable James Getty of the 21sty Century was a top notch re-enactor who delivered Abraham Lincoln in person to audiences in Gettysburg for 40 years, beginning at the age of approximately 43. He entertained and informed tourists, federal government departments, business and civic groups, classroom students, teachers, and symposium attendees.

Jim Getty was as much Lincoln as he was himself, as much Abraham Lincoln as Hal Holbrook is Mark Twain on stage. Getty was attracted to Lincoln for what he learned were the President's honorable goals and concern for America, and the methods he used to achieve those goals.

Getty began portraying the presidential hero in 1970 in Sandusky, Ohio because as he grew a beard, people remarked on his resemblance to Lincoln. Those remarks started him on his 40-year journey as the Civil War President. By 1977, he and his wife and youngest son, in high school, had moved to Gettysburg. For the last 15 years of his life and portrayals, he was a valued member of The Lincoln Forum. (Reference: The Lincoln Forum Bulletin, Fall 2014).

Getty Delivers the Gettysburg Address

© 2015 Patty Inglish

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I've always enjoyed Virginia and envy hour having lived there. I'll post something about the new Lincoln actor as soon as I can find out!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      Thank you for the education about this hotel and family. We lived in Virginia for years but never got the chance to view this in person. Maybe some day I will return to capture this wonderful piece of history.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @MsDora - Th ebest bits of history I find while reading about something else, so it's always a gift!

      Mr. Getty has four children about 60+ years old and none has spoken of continuing the performances. I don't know if they can - his house was filled with manuscripts, books, and other documents from Lincoln's time and it might be overwhelming to begin at their ages.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @mckbirdbks - I never saw the Disney robot, but I sure saw Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain! Holbrook is still at it after 60 years and I see he has performances once a month for the next six months.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @drbj - James Getty was certainly remarkable in his portrayal - and for long a time! He also delivered a leadership program to Fortune 500 companies called "Lincoln and His Leadership." His website says nothing yet of who might take over.

      I just learned that his voice is on the recording delivering the Gettysburg address as the Lincoln Memorial in DC and another recording at the Henry Ford Museum.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sorry to hear about James Getty's death. Wondering can his son continue his re-enactment of Lincoln. Thanks for the history behind this famous family, the hotel and all the changes. You make history interesting!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      What an interesting presentation. You have mixed American history with a Lincoln re-enactor. That is a nice concept. Other than the Disney robotic Lincoln of years ago, I have not seen a Lincoln re-enactor. I was lucky enough to see Hal Holbrook give a memorable performance of Mark Twain.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      2 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, Patty, for this fascinating look at some Gettysburg history that was news to me. How remarkable that James Getty became a well-known Lincoln re-enactor.

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