An orange, handwritten sign that reads "Warning: No floor" hangs cautiously on the door of the Daniel Klingel House, located in the heart of the Gettysburg battlefield.

Occupied by both Union and Confederate troops at some point during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, the 160-year-old house is an historical gem.

But the Klingel House is also a mess. The logs that hold the structure together are rotting, its foundation may need to be replaced, and Gettysburg National Military Park officials aren't even sure of the building's original footprint. The structure's floorboards were recently removed and replaced with sheets of plywood that balance precariously on the remaining beams.

Gettysburg National Military Park employee Michael Wright prepares a section of the Lafayette Square Memorial Fence for welding. The fence, which surrounds
Gettysburg National Military Park employee Michael Wright prepares a section of the Lafayette Square Memorial Fence for welding. The fence, which surrounds part of the Soldiers National Cemetery, once stood on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., but was given to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association by Congress and erected around East Cemetery Hill in 1889. It was relocated to the cemetery in 1934. Park employees are working to remove lead-based paint from the fence and repair its broken parts. (Evening Sun Photo by James Robinson)

"It's a structure that hasn't had a lot of care over the years," said the park's chief of maintenance, Marc Pratt.

That's about to change, however.

With a budget that rarely saw increases from year to year, Gettysburg park officials struggled for years to keep up with a backlog of necessary maintenance projects.

In August 2006, Pratt told USA Today that time and a tight budget were taking a toll on the battlefield's historic structures and monuments.

"You start to look around, and there's work everywhere that needs to be done. We just don't have the money or people to do those things," Pratt said at the time. "It's a red flag that we're getting behind, and it appears to be getting worse.



But since 2006 - the year Pratt recently described as the park's "low" point in terms of funding shortages and backlogged projects - Gettysburg National Military Park's operating budget has increased by $1,651,000.

That includes $935,155 in the 2008 budget specifically for repair and rehabilitation - up from only $35,570 in 2006.

Add to that another $700,000 in stimulus money that the park will use to repair the Klingel House and replace 5,000 feet of deteriorated water line at the McMillan Woods Scout Camp on West Confederate Avenue, and things are finally starting to turn around. Pratt said he expects the Klingel House rehabilitation to be completed in the fall of 2010. Then, the building will again be rented to park employees as a residence.

Another indication of change is the park's intention to fill nine permanent positions - currently vacant - before October. Those positions include a facilities operations specialist, preservationist, historic preservation maintenance worker, engineering equipment operator supervisor, law-enforcement park ranger, preservation worker, park guide, biologist and tractor operator.

Because the park's operating budget flat-lined for many years, officials said they had no choice but to leave a position vacant when an employee moved on - another reason why projects backlogged.

Slowly but surely, however, officials say they are beginning to chip away at the project list.

For example, work is almost complete on a rehabilitation of the Lafayette Square Memorial Fence, which, since 1934, has surrounded part of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. The project to remove lead-based paint and repair broken parts of the fence will cost about $219,000 when all is said and done.

It's the first time in a long time that significant work has been done to maintain the fence, which once stood on Lafayette Square in Washington D.C., but was given to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association by Congress to be erected around East Cemetery Hill in 1889. In 1934, it was relocated to the cemetery.

"From a distance, the fence looks like it's not in bad shape," Pratt said. "As you get up close, you can certainly see some of the flaws."

But many more millions of dollars are needed if the park is to truly catch up on its backlog.

Standing on the corner of Table Rock and Biglerville roads is a building that can only be described as decrepit. The metal roof of the John Blocher Farm house is deteriorating and the mortar is crumbling. The structure's floor is covered with rotted wood and paint that has flaked from the walls and ceilings.

Just to stabilize - not rehabilitate - the building would require more than $117,000. After a quick glance around the building, Pratt said he wouldn't be surprised if rehabilitation cost more like $150,000.

"But I think you could easily double that," he said.

For now, Pratt said, all the park can do is let the building breathe through screened-in windows until the funding is available to work on it.

The same is true of the Josiah Benner Barn, located on Old Harrisburg Road.

Acquired by Gettysburg National Military Park in 2001, the barn was in the line of advance by Gen. Jubal Early's Confederate division on the afternoon of July 1. The walls and height of the building provided cover for skirmishers on both sides during various portions of the conflict, and the building was later used as a hospital.

Before the park could even embark on a $485,521 rehabilitation project, officials need to complete a $85,000 historic structures report.

Each year, the park submits its list of projects in need of funding - which currently number about four dozen - to the National Park Service for consideration. Park Service officials at a regional and national level then decide which parks and which projects receive funds.

Even if enough funding becomes available in the future to do all of the projects, Pratt said old structures are in constant need of attention. Regular maintenance, however, is the key, he said.

"I think we're making progress, but the list keeps growing," he said. "It's always in a constant decline. But you have to get the structure in a good condition again and try to maintain them."