The American Civil War Wax Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is for sale. The 12,450 square-foot building, all of its contents, plus the adjacent Veteran’s Park with its native plants and shade trees can be yours for the bargain price of $1,695,000.
Founded in 1962 by Polish immigrant C.M. Uberman, the museum today boasts more than 300 life-size wax figures arranged in 35 scenes depicting important events in the Civil War. It’s the only museum in Gettysburg that focuses on the entirety of the war, although of course it also gives due prominence to the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. There’s a Battle Room in which the figures combine with digital enhancements and sound to recreate the feeling of being at the Battle of Gettysburg, followed by an animated figure of Abraham Lincoln delivering the address.
Living history displays with Civil War reenactors take place outside from April through November. The museum hosts book signings, live performances of Civil War music, lectures from experts in everything from Civil War artillery to Victorian hair jewelry to newspaper printing and all kinds of other neat events.
More than eight million visitors have enjoyed the museum since its opening, and this year being the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (which took place July 1–3, 1863), there’s sure to be a boost in visitor numbers. So why are they selling, you ask? It’s a family run business and the owners are ready to retire but the children aren’t interested in taking over. Public sale is the result, and there won’t be any conditions so the new owners can either keep the museum open or just buy it for the property. The good news is there are several interested buyers and all of them have told the owners they would keep the museum running.
Meanwhile, there are all kinds of 150th anniversary events scheduled through the end of the year. General Manager Tammy Myers says they expect the 2013 schedule to remain unchanged, sale or no sale.
I haven’t been to this museum personally, but from the pictures I’d say the wax figures and dioramas are on the rudimentary side. There’s a lot of room, I think, for new owners to bring in a fresh perspective and spruce up the displays. Wax figures can be amazingly lifelike nowadays and when it comes to backdrops and settings, digital elements could really boost the sense of realism. Given the relatively low cost of the property and the reliable stream of income from visitors and gift shop purchases, a Civil War buff with deep pockets could get a great return on investment by renovating the exhibits.