Gettysburg Address

A scholar's house resonates with history.

Borritt
The Boritts in front of their house with dogs Nola and Bilbo

Credit: Carol Highsmith

Gabor and Liz Boritt moved to Gettysburg, Pa., in 1981, after Gabor, a historian originally from Hungary, took a teaching position at Gettysburg College. They promptly set their hearts on a simple stone farmhouse west of the town on Marsh Creek. "It was the only house in Gettysburg we liked," says Liz, a jewelry designer and homemaker. "We liked the privacy, and we really wanted a Pennsylvania farmhouse." Gabor recalls, "I fell in love with the barn first," a reference to the 1780s cantilevered building behind the house (pictured opposite), constructed of stone and wooden siding and with its original chestnut beams still intact.

The main house, which dates to the 1790s, had long been abandoned, and most of the old doors had been burned for heat. "The house was a mess," Gabor says. "But Liz could see the possibilities." The couple bought the property in 1983.

Built by William Crawford, a Scottish immigrant and doctor who served as Gettysburg's justice of the peace and later as a U.S. congressman, the house was small by modern standards: two rooms downstairs, two upstairs, plus a late-19th-century clapboard addition. But it was solid, with walls 18 inches thick. Back in the late 1700s, it might have been a fortress against Indian attack, an occasional problem on the Pennsylvania frontier.

Although the developer who sold them the property expected they would tear the old house down, the Boritts intended to do no such thing. Instead, they restored and adapted the house to fit the lifestyle of a family with three growing boys. "The house was in pretty good shape structurally," says Gabor. Liz agrees: "Most of the issues were cosmetic." The old wood windows had rotted and the plaster walls were crumbling, but the home's original fireplaces remained intact, and the foundation was still strong.

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