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Civil War Eyesore Comes Down

A 393-foot observation tower overlooking the Gettysburg battlefield was demolished Monday. The privately owned tourist tower loomed over Gettysburg National Military Park for more than 25 years.

Some considered it an eyesore, and officials say tearing it down marked a step toward returning the scene to the way it looked at the time of the Civil War.

The demolition was performed by Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., the company that uses explosives to take down tall buildings. The president of the firm, Mark Loizeaux, offered to do the job free of charge if it could be done Monday.

Monday marked the anniversary of Pickett's Charge, the climactic act of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, where Gen. Robert E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania was turned back in July 1863. Some 15,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. George Edward Pickett made a desperate assault on Union lines. Amid casualties of nearly 60 percent, rebel troops broke the Northern line but were unable to hold their position.

The National Park Service said the demolition is "the first dramatic step to restore the Gettysburg Battlefield to its 1863 appearance."

"This is truly a great day for everyone who cares about our nation's sacred ground," said park superintendent John A. Latschar.

"We've got thousands of acres where you can lose yourself back in the 1860's and try to comtemplate what these soldiers went through and what they were fighting and what it meant to the nation," Latschar told CBS Radio News. "Then you lift your eyes to the horizon and you see this misplaced, incongruous tower...."

That's why it came down.

Some called the tower an eyesore, others said it's ugly. Now it's gone.

The detonation of explosives occurred shortly after 5 p.m., apparently dropping the 1,000-ton tower into its own parking lot, without incident.

Civil War buffs staging an annual re-enactment nearby turned their artillery pieces toward the tower and fired at the time that the charges are set to go off.

The $2.5 million tower was opened in July, 1974. In early June, a federal judge ruled in favor of the government in a lawsuit seeking permission to take control of the site. The government set aside $3 million to compensate the owners.

Joel H. Rosenblatt, the engineer who designed the tower, was critical of the plans to destroy it, saying it was an unusual design crafted with the aid of a high-speed computer.

"It's worth saving," he said earlier this month. "It deserves attention for itself."
Now it's gone.