Gettysburg Tower To Come Down

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Removing an observation tower overlooking the Gettysburg battlefield is a step toward returning the scene to the way it looked at the time of the Civil War, officials said.

Technicians prepared Monday to demolish the 393-foot tourist tower, which has loomed over Gettysburg National Military Park for more than 25 years. A judge cleared the way for the demolition of the privately owned tower, which critics consider an eyesore, last month.

Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., the company that uses explosives to demolish tall buildings, offered to take the tower down free of charge if it could be done Monday.

Monday is the anniversary of Pickett's Charge, the climactic act of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, where Gen. Robert E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania was turned back in July 1863. Some 15,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. George Edward Pickett made a desperate assault on Union lines. Amid casualties of nearly 60 percent, rebel troops broke the Northern line but were unable to hold their position.

The National Park Service said the demolition would be ``the first dramatic step to restore the Gettysburg Battlefield to its 1863 appearance.''

``This is truly a great day for everyone who cares about our nation's sacred ground,'' said park superintendent John A Latschar.

The 5 p.m. detonation of explosives should drop the 1,000-ton tower into its own parking lot, Loizeaux said.

Civil War buffs staging an annual re-enactment nearby planned to turn their artillery pieces toward the tower and fire at the time that the charges are set to go off.

The $2.5 million tower was opened in July 1974. In early June, a federal judge ruled in favor of the government in a lawsuit seeking permission to take control of the site. The government set aside $3 million to compensate the owners.

Joel H. Rosenblatt, the engineer who designed the tower, was critical of the plans to destroy it, saying it was an unusual design crafted with the aid of a high-speed computer.

``It's worth saving,'' he said earlier this month. ``It deserves attention for itself.''


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