How to Delve Into the Dark: An Opinion on Interpreting the Harmon Farm

By Matt LaRoche ’17

A number of weeks ago, I put out a series of pieces focusing on some of the goals and hitches that come with the territory of historical preservation (see “A Vision for a Place: A Commentary on the Rehabilitation of the Harmon Farm” and “Stewarding Our Lands: Historical Preservation in Gettysburg”). To make these topics more bite-sized, I pared my focus down to the recently-preserved Harmon Farm property on Gettysburg’s outskirts. A commenter later asked for my thoughts on the matter of how to present what’s just been preserved in our backyard, so I will try to do that issue justice in this post.

Photo credit to Philip Pane ’17.
Harmon Farm lands, photo credit to Philip Pane ’17.

Firstly, the changes that Andrew L. Dalton, the Harmon Farm’s leading scholar, recommended must be made. Decades as a country club/golf course/resort hotel have altered the topography of the place, especially with the addition of that honking water feature. Whatever was brought in must be taken out. But beyond those obvious changes, the question of how to shape the site for presentation to the public becomes open to discussion. Often the debate over how to present a site falls along two distinct lines that can be summarized with the question, “Do you want more or less human intervention at the site?” For this particular site, I say more. I want to see the golf cart paths repurposed to lead people around a circuit of explanatory waysides and perhaps stone outlines to mark the foundations of the actual buildings of the farm, where applicable. Continue reading “How to Delve Into the Dark: An Opinion on Interpreting the Harmon Farm”

A Vision for a Place: A Commentary on the Rehabilitation of the Harmon Farm

By Matt LaRoche ’17

My last post, “Stewarding Our Lands: Historical Preservation in Gettysburg,” aimed at engendering a general awareness of the goals and challenges that historians face in preserving and presenting places of value. To bring the message home to Gettysburgians, I used the somewhat recently acquired Harmon Farm property as a focusing lens. To follow it up, I interviewed the young man who literally wrote the book on the Harmon Farm.

Photo credit to Philip Pane '17.
Photo credit to Philip Pane ’17.

Andrew L. Dalton has been a Gettysburg resident since the age of four and will be attending Gettysburg College next year. In his book Beyond the Run: The Emanuel Harmon Farm at Gettysburg, Dalton attaches stories and faces to the fameless ninety-five acres of the Harmon property. The terror and suffering borne by the soldiers who contested that ground, as well as the fear felt by sixteen-year-old Amelia Harmon and her family as their home was occupied and burned, have long ago hallowed that ground. Now their stories stand on the cusp of remembrance. But to remember these people properly, the property needs some renovation. 150 years of history has left its mark on what was once a simple Pennsylvania homestead. The industry of subsequent owners more than the battle has transformed the place into a fixer-upper in the best sense of the word. Hosting a hotel and a country club green has changed the landscape, but has also left a historical site full of potential – if a vision emerges to realize it. Continue reading “A Vision for a Place: A Commentary on the Rehabilitation of the Harmon Farm”

Stewarding Our Lands: Historical Preservation in Gettysburg

By Matt LaRoche ’17

Photo credit to Philip Pane ’17.

In recent decades, more and more time, energy, and resources have been put towards saving large tracts of our historical heritage. This surely appears self-evident to residents of a place like Gettysburg, which has seen the boundaries of the park grow exponentially thanks to the National Park Service, as well as to the actions of various private organizations and individuals.[1] However, the conservation is far from complete. Not every  “vision-place of souls”[2] has been saved. However, while every parcel of preserved land is a gift to the American people, much preserved land still waits to be properly rehabilitated and made a meaningful part of the national tapestry.

Continue reading “Stewarding Our Lands: Historical Preservation in Gettysburg”