The Lutheran Theological Seminary is on the west side of Gettysburg. (Tour map: Seminary Ridge Avenue) It was founded in 1826 and is the oldest continuing Lutheran seminary in North America, with an enrollment of around 200 students. Its founder, Samuel Simon Schmucker, was a staunch abolitionist and supporter of the Underground Railway, hiding fugitive slaves in his home and barn.
Most buildings on the campus are postwar structures. But Schmucker Hall, known as the Old Dorm (at bottom), dates from 1832. The cupola of the Old Dorm, made famous in the movie Gettysburg, was an observation post for both sides during the battle. Its basement was a place of refuge for the Slenz family that rented McPherson’s farm just to the west. It suffered a great deal of damage, including the loss of most of its window glass, many bullet holes, and a crack that extended nearly two stories.
The Union First Corps established a field hospital in the building on the first day of the battle, and for the next two months the building housed almost 700 patients, some 70 of whom died there. Most were transferred to other facilities as soon as their conditions stabilized, but Lieutenant Colonel George F. McFarland of the 151th Pennsylvania Infantry remained until September, the longest and last patient at the Old Dorm.
Today the Seminary has expanded and the Old Dorm is almost lost among the new buildings and mature trees. Lightning struck and destroyed the famous cupola in 1913, but the rest of the building was saved. It was considered for demolition in the 1950’s but an outpouring of support from the community and alumni preserved the structure, and since 1974 it has been a National Historic Landmark. It now houses the interpretive museum of the Adams County Historical Society.