Good old days at Salem Church

From Hennessy:


Looking east along Route 3 from the Salem Church ridge. The 15th New Jersey monument is visible in the distance. Salem Church itself is beyond the right edge of the image.


Two forces coincided to lead to the loss of the Salem Church Battlefield and the church’s virtual isolation today. First, an interchange on an interstate highway, built in the 1960s. The power of interchanges to transform the landscapes around them–especially in an aspiring urban area–is inexorable, demonstrated only over time.

Veterans at Salem Church, about 1900. On the gable end, one entrance was for men, the other for women. The entrance on the side led directly to the gallery. It was for slaves.

Second, in the 1960s and 1970s, no one, including the National Park Service, foresaw the transformative forces at work. Though the NPS could have acquired any land it deemed significant on the Salem Church battlefield prior to 1974, it did not have the funds to do so. Given that, and given the incredible economic forces that drive land development on roads leading to major interchanges, no additional land was preserved, and anything not preserved was slated for development. Today the NPS owns about two acres around Salem Church.

A windshield view from the early or mid-20th century, looking west at the Salem Church ridge.

The view westward toward Salem Church after the expansion of Route 3 to four lanes in the early 1960s.

The Salem Church battlefield today. The Confederate battle line extended above and below Salem Church. Union attacks passed from right to left.

The interior of Salem Church remains a powerful place.


9 thoughts on “Good old days at Salem Church

  1. It should be evident to every battlefield preservationist that infrastructure begets development. You will be hard pressed to get a transportation planner to admit that, though, since the state of the art is not to plan transportation, but rather to react to congestion. In the context of Salem Church, let us not forget that the scene of action extended from Sunken Road to the Salem Church ridge. Extensive development has consumed the historic terrain east of I-95 as much as it has the area west of the interstate. In addition, Salem Church is simply a small component of a battlefield that extends south to Hazel Run and as far north as Fall Hill. Much of this battlefield is built over, but significant components remain intact. Salem Church gets attenntion because it is a tangible structure, but the overall battleground was huge.

  2. I think these pictures speak volumes of why some people are against the casino at Gettysburg.

    Love the site…keep up the good work!

  3. The caption to the picture of the four lane route 3 says the expansion occurred in the late 60’s. When I came home from 3 years in the Army in January 1963 the expansion had already been completed for some time.

      • Incidentally, I believe that the specific photo image showing Route 3 four laned looking westward toward the Old Salem Church Battlefield Ridge, was produced in the summer of 1965 by former NPS historian Ralph Happel.

        Eric Martin

  4. I believe the church and the land around it was donated to the NPS by Salem Church, after the new church was built on the other side of the cemetery. Also, land was being purchased for the Rt. 3 expansion in the early-mid 1950’s. I remember my father negotiating with the highway department for a strip of land for an access road similar to the one built on Rt. 1. By 1963 road construction was in progress and Carl D. Silver and others were in a race to buy land along Rt. 3.

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