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GETTYSBURG Pa (Reuters) - A non-profit trust dedicated to preserving Civil War sites plans to spend more than $5 million to save and restore a small stone building which served as the headquarters for Confederate general Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg, which lasted three days in 1863, is often described as the turning point of the Civil War. Some 164,000 troops from both sides participated, and some 51,000 were left dead, wounded, captured or missing.
The Civil War Trust announced on Tuesday it had purchased the four-acre plot of land surrounding the building, and plans to raze several non-historic buildings at the site, said Mary Koik, a spokeswoman for the trust.
The Lee headquarters and another building that is part of the preservation project currently occupy the same four-acre property as the Appalachian Brewery and the Quality Inn. In early 2015, the Civil War Trust will take over the property and raze those two buildings, Koik said.
"We've torn down smaller buildings, but these are the largest we will have ever removed," Koik said.
The project will take nine to 12 months once the restoration phase begins, and the site will eventually be turned over to the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation, she said.
Belmont Partnership, the former owners, will continue to operate their businesses until 2015, Koik said. In addition, Belmont Partnership plans to donate "a significant collection of Civil War artifacts" to the park service.
About $2.5 million of the total cost has already been raised through private donations and the trust is applying for a $1.5 million grant, said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Trust. The remaining $1.1 million must be raised before the end of this year, he said.
Editing by Edith Honan and Grant McCool