Begun in the spring of 1822, the congregants consecrated their church building in November of that year. At
the time, Methodism was still a young and somewhat obscure Christain denomination, and prided itself in paying more attention
than any other church to area African-Americans. In Gettysburg, blacks were welcome within its fold, and church membership
was substantial, although attendance later declined when the black community decided in the 1840's to start their own African
Methodist Episcopal congregation. In 1863, during and after the Battle of Gettsyburg, most public and church buildings were
pressed into service for one use or another. College and seminary buildings, as well as many homes, were converted to hospitals
to care for the wounded and dying. The Methodist Church was no exception.
After the war, membership of the Methodist Church grew considerably, and by 1871 the
congregation felt the need for a larger structure. Upon completion of the new church in February 1874 on the opposite side
of East Middle Street closer to Baltimore Street, the Methodists put the old church and graveyard lot up for sale. Due to
national financial depression, nine years passed before the Methodists found a buyer - a group of local Union Civil War veterns
who belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic, a national veterans organization.
In 1867, Gettysburg Civil War veterans organized
the local post - Corporal Johnston H. Skelly Post No. 9 of the G.A.R. - named for a Gettysburg resident and member of Company
F, 87th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had been at the Battle of Winchester on June 13, 1863. In 1872, the state G.A.R. officers
came to town and arranged a grand encampment on the battlefield.
New G.A.R. post members were energetically
recruited. By 1880, membership
had grown to the point where the group felt they could afford to buy a Post home. The
empty Methodist Church seemed appropriate for their needs, and in March of 1880 the Post 9 trustees purchased it for $600.The
ranks of its members then grew to represent one of the more powerful influences in Gettysburg, with a great many of the borough
leaders becoming members of the Post.
By 1888, the Post had added a dining room and
kitchen to the rear of the building.
By 1890, nationally, the G.A.R. had well over 400,000 members and until
1900 it was force to be reckoned with in local, state and national politics.
The G.A.R. maintained a powerful lobby for the Republican Party in Washington, which, among other things,
provided assistance for veterans and education in patriotism to young Americans.
During World War I, the U.S. Army established at Gettysburg, Camp Colt,
one of the first training camps for its fledgling tank corps, commanded by Dwight D.Eisenhower. As a result of the devastating
Spanish influenza epidemic in 1918, the army officials used the G.A.R. Hall to house the coffins of itsmen who had succumbed to the virus and awaited shipment home.
Well before the end of World War I, the ranks of Gettysburg G.A.R. members had rapidly
thinned. By 1930, membership had shrunk to only six,
and these few remaining survivors voted unanimously to turn over their assets to an auxiliary organization, Sons of Union
Veterans (S.U.V.C.W.), Gettysburg Camp 112, with the condition that they retain the name of Corporal J.H. Skelly Post
9 of G.A.R. As time passed, the SUVCW local membership, like its predecessor, dwindled to just a few. The G.A.R. Hall was left to its own devices as the SUVCW trustees found
their organization financially unable to provide for its upkeep.
In November of 1988, Historic Gettsyburg-Adams County, Inc. (HGAC), also
known as the Historic Preservation Society of Gettysburg-Adams County, established in 1975, agreed to acquire and restore
the G.A.R. property Since it was the oldest standing church building in Gettysburg, the HGAC board of directors decided
to restore some features of the original church structure, such as the contour of the altar area, the choir loft and the cemetery
in the rear of the building. Over the next two years, HGAC members worked diligently to achieve a level of restoration that
would preserve the charm of the original 1822 structure while respectfully displaying significant artifacts to retain features
and the appearance of the traditional G.A.R. meeting place. Due
to the deteriorated condition of the walls in the sanctuary, new walls were installed on which folk art murals were painted
that depicted historic scenes throughout Adams county. By
reinforcing crumbling walls, uncovering the balcony in the main room, adding a new roof and an attractive serviceable lower
meeting hall, HGAC assured the building would remain standing
to provide service to many generations to come.
The building today serves the community as a meeting
and dining hall hosting numerous local groups,
catered affairs, regularly scheduled HGAC
and SUVCW functions.