We’re pleased today to welcome guest author William B. Styple to Emerging Civil War. Styple is the author of a number of must-have Civil War books too numerous to mention here (but if you don’t have them, go visit his website ASAP!).
Forty years ago, in 1974, all I wanted for my 14th birthday was a two-day visit to Gettysburg. My parents obliged, and we had a great tour of the battlefield, and later in the afternoon, we went to a NPS program inside the Cyclorama. The park ranger mentioned that the controversial “National Tower” was opening the following morning, so being a typical inquisitive 14 year-old, I got up at 6:00 am and walked over to the site, Who knew I was to be first in line? When the Tower opened for business, I was surrounded by numerous reporters covering the event and was interviewed–I was even quoted in the New York Times! My father said, “They should give you a life-time pass,” which they did, and I have still.
And I am very glad I outlived the tower, which was demolished in 2000. Of course nobody misses that eyesore, but I have always said that the National Tower served as an important catalyst for the modern Civil War Preservation movement; it was the one intrusion that preservationists could point to and argue for the saving of battlefield land. So, in my opinion, I’m glad it was built, and I’m glad it is no more (and the Cyclorama is gone too).
They say: you know you are old, when you remember where things used to be.
(Postscript) Two days before the tower closed in June, 2000, I was tracked down by several reporters who invited me back for the “Closing Day.” I went and was among the last visitors. By-the-way, the view was terrific.