BY NANCIE GUDMESTAD/February 2019
In 1984, Nancie and Del Gudmestad walked away from their successful careers in computer sales in the Philadelphia area to open the first bed and breakfast in Gettysburg. The Old Appleford Inn was located on Carlisle Street near Gettysburg College. It didn’t take long for them to recognize that their guests spent a lot of time at the breakfast table each morning discussing generals and troop movements during the Battle of Gettysburg; but they never talked about the citizens who endured such a horrific experience.
Twelve years later, the Gudmestads purchased a house in the historic district of Gettysburg where they planned to tell the civilian side of the Battle of Gettysburg. Located just a few blocks south of Lincoln Square, the two-story brick house was built just months before the Civil War began but 136 years later, the house had missing window panes, had no electricity, no water, no heat and a serious leak in the roof. At one time nearly thirty cats lived in the abandoned house. They painstakingly restored the house, which had been abandoned for almost 30 years, to its 1860s appearance to be used as a heritage museum. The original plan called for telling the stories of many of the town’s civilians, but while the house was undergoing a major restoration, many questions arose. Who built the house? What was the owner’s occupation? And what happened to the residents of the house during the battle? It was difficult to find anyone who knew much information about the house or its original owners, but after countless hours of arduous research, George and Hettie Shriver’s story gradually began to unfold.
On Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m., Gudmestad will share stories of the restoration and of the Shriver family during the quarterly meeting of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.
The restoration of the house which began in January 1996, was a grubby, backbreaking, eight-to-ten-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week labor of love. That winter brought record breaking low temperatures, more than a hundred inches of snow and two major floods that made national news. But the rewards far outweighed the obstacles, because each day brought about new discoveries. In addition to learning more and more about the Shriver family, countless treasures were found within the house — inside walls, underneath fireplace hearths, and under floorboards. Among the artifacts discovered were six Civil War cartridges (three still containing gun-powder), a number of percussion caps, Civil War medical supplies, and much, much more. The meticulous restoration earned the Shriver House Museum the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Historic Preservation Award and has been used a filming site for PBS, The Discovery Channel, A&E, HGTV, CNN, BBC, The Travel Channel and The History Channel and more.
Gudmestad will cover the Civil War experiences of the Shriver family, the fascinating discoveries uncovered, what the Shrivers’ experienced before, during and after the Battle of Gettysburg, and the civilians’ ordeal of civil war on their doorstep.
The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road, Gettysburg, and refreshments will be served. The location is handicapped accessible.
For more information about CTHS, visit cumberlandtownship.org.
Nancie Gudmestad is the author of a book on the Shriver family, “The Shrivers’ Story: Eyewitnesses to the Battle of Gettysburg,” now in its sixth printing.