Gettysburg National Military Park | DAVID WILLS HOUSE

David Wills House in downtown Gettysburg

David Wills House in downtown Gettysburg

David Wills was a prominent resident of Gettysburg during mid- to late 1800s. He was instrumental in the creation of Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and it is he who invited President Abraham Lincoln to speak at the dedication ceremony on November 19, 1863. Lincoln, who had already written a version of his Gettysburg Address while in Washington, D. C., stayed at Wills’ house. It is here that he finalized the speech.

After Wills died in 1894, the house was sold and was used as a residence and commercial space by various owners. In fact, the first floor was occupied by a drug store all the way up until 1995. The second floor where Lincoln stayed was opened to tourists in 1938, and in 1945 it became a full time museum that continued to operate until 2005 when the house was acquired by the National Park Service for inclusion in Gettysburg National Military Park. After a complete renovation, the house reopened in 2009. The entire house now functions as a museum, but the bedroom where Lincoln stayed continues to be the main attraction.

Bedroom inside the David Wills House where Abraham Lincoln stayed

Bedroom inside the David Wills House where Abraham Lincoln stayed

The David Wills House is located on the main square in downtown Gettysburg (8 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA  17235). It is open to visitors free of charge on select days of the week. Tours are self-guided, but there are National Park Service Rangers on hand to answer any questions that you might have. See the National Park Service’s official David Wills House web page for operating hours.

In addition to the Lincoln bedroom, each room in the house has exhibits that focus on an aspect of the events that took place in Gettysburg before, during, and after the battle (July 1-3, 1863). There are two rooms on the ground floor, one being David Wills’ parlor. Here you will learn about David Wills, his house, life in Gettysburg in July 1863, and Soldiers’ National Cemetery. In addition to information panels, there is a scale model of 1863 Gettysburg and a five-minute film about the creation of the cemetery.

First floor exhibits and scale model of 1863 Gettysburg at the David Wills House

First floor exhibits and scale model of 1863 Gettysburg at the David Wills House

Visitors to the David Wills House in Gettysburg watch a film about Soldiers' National Cemetery

Visitors to the David Wills House in Gettysburg watch a film about Soldiers’ National Cemetery

The adjacent room is Wills’ law office. The room is furnished as it might have been in 1863. Facsimiles of invitations to the dedication ceremony of Soldiers’ National Cemetery that Wills sent to government officials, including President Abraham Lincoln, are displayed on the desk.

David Wills' law office inside his Gettysburg home

David Wills’ law office inside his Gettysburg home

Facsimiles of invitations sent by Wills for the dedication of Soldiers' National Cemetery

Facsimiles of invitations sent by Wills for the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Facsimiles of invitations sent by Wills for the dedication of Soldiers' National Cemetery

Facsimiles of invitations sent by Wills for the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery

The second floor of the Wills House covers President Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg, his stay at the Wills House, and his Gettysburg Address. Information panels give the details, and there are a few artifacts on display, with the most interesting being the saddle cover used by Lincoln when he rode from the Wills House to the dedication ceremony at the cemetery.

Second floor exhibits at the David Wills House in Gettysburg

Saddle cover used by President Abraham Lincoln when he rode to Soldiers' National Cemetery

Saddle cover used by President Abraham Lincoln when he rode to Soldiers’ National Cemetery

The main attraction is the actual bedroom in which Lincoln stayed. The bed and most of the furniture is original and was used by Lincoln. A seven-minute audio presentation about Lincoln plays on a loop.

Bedroom inside the David Wills House where Abraham Lincoln stayed

Bedroom inside the David Wills House where Abraham Lincoln stayed

If you want to read all of the information, watch the video, and listen to the audio presentation, plan to spend one hour at the David Wills House. If all you want to do is see the bedroom and browse the exhibits, allow 15 to 30 minutes for your visit.

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Last updated on November 1, 2022
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