GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The David Wills House, on the square in Gettysburg, is run by the National Park Service. But, like so many places, it had to close due to Covid. Now, after almost two years, it is reopening to the public.

“We’ll be operating from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays up until June, and then our hours will change, Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m,” explains Park Range Angie Atkinson. And, she adds, admission is free.

The Wills House is best known as the home where President Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. His upstairs room has been restored to its original appearance-including the original furniture. The evening before the dedication he was still revising his speech.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

He had most of the address ready to go,” says Atkinson. “Wordsmithing here and there, adding some polishing touches.”

But the house, and its owner, were important to the community before Lincoln stepped through the door.

“David Wills is a local lawyer in the town of Gettysburg. Prominent citizen, president of the borough council at one point, and he is not only influential in the town of Gettysburg, but also instrumental in creating the Soldiers National Cemetery after the battle of Gettysburg,” says Atkinson.

Working from this office on the first floor, Wills handled many of the details of establishing the Cemetery, from arranging burials for the dead, to organizing the dedication ceremony. As part of that, he sent out a lot of invitations.

“One of the first invitations he would send out would be to a gentleman named Edward Everett, a famous orator of the day,” explains Atkinson. (Everett would give the main speech at the dedication ceremony, which lasted two hours.) “He would also send an invitation out to many governors of the states of the Union soldiers that would be represented here, and then also an invitation to President Lincoln.

A beautifully detailed diorama on the first floor of the Wills House shows visitors how the center of Gettysburg looked back in 1863.

“You’re looking down, in a sense, into someone’s life,” says Atkinson. “The outhouses and the outbuildings. You can see maybe the outdoor kitchens or the smokehouses, you can see the brick kiln, the space which is here, which is probably very different from the way we see Gettysburg today, going through in our cars or buses.”

The diorama is the centerpiece of the main exhibit hall, which tells the story of life for people in the area before, during, and after the battle.

‘We tend to forget that, or we talk about the battle and it’s exciting and everything that happens, we sometimes forget that people were living here, and existing day today.” says Atkinson.

After the battle, David Wills, like many other citizens is going to see their town, about 2,400 inhabitants at the time, really just in disarray.

“Many of the houses across the town of Gettysburg, and the farmstead across the outskirts of the town, are going to be used as hospitals. You have homes, you have churches, you have other outbuildings, barns are being used; the minorly wounded, the significantly wounded, some of these men would be able to be treated, and join back up with their armies, other men would be carried off to larger hospitals, in and around the east coast, and in fact, Gettysburg would have a large hospital known as Camp Letterman here on the outskirts of town, off of York Street.”

“The town, the churches, the buildings really become kind of an epicenter of care and healing, and the Wills House would be much the same,” Atkinson said.