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What Should Gettysburg National Military Park Do With Its Empty Cyclorama Building?

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To demolish, or not demolish. That is the question being pondered by officials at Gettysburg National Military Park over their empty Cyclorama building.

Originally, park officials were planning to tear down the structure, which became somewhat obsolete after the Cyclorama painting -- an elaborate depiction of Pickett's Charge up Cemetery Ridge -- was moved to the park's new visitor center. But then a federal court ordered the park to consider other alternatives for the building, which was built on North Cemetery Ridge in 1962 and is eligible for listing on the National Register.

There will be two open houses for the public to weigh in on this decision as the park moves forward with an environmental assessment examining the building's future. The meetings -- to be held in the classroom at the park Museum and Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg -- are scheduled for September 16 and 17. The first session will be on September 16 at 7:00 p.m. Another session will be held on September 17, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Information about the planning process soon will be available for review at this site.

The Cyclorama building was designed by noted architect Richard Neutra and was constructed on an area of the Gettysburg battlefield where major battle action occurred.

In 1999, the NPS approved a General Management Plan for Gettysburg NMP that called for (among numerous other actions) the demolition of the Cyclorama building so as to provide for the long-term preservation of the Cyclorama painting (a National Historic Object) and the rehabilitation of the historic landscapes of the battlefield.

During the general management planning process the Park Service consulted with the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer, the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, numerous interested parties, and the public. The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer and the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation both approved the demolition of the building in order to rehabilitate the 1863 battlefield, as did the majority of the public comments received.

The current planning process will consider a range of alternatives including: keeping the building in its current site and "mothballing" it; reusing the building in its current site; relocating the building to a new site; and demolishing the building to return the area to its appearance at the time of the fighting of this pivotal Civil War battle in July 1863.

"We respectfully request the public’s thoughtful evaluation and comments on these questions: 1) What are the planning issues we should be thinking about?; 2) What are the alternatives we should be considering?; 3) What are the important impacts we should be evaluating?" said Gettysburg Superintendent Bob Kirby. "Comments would be most useful if we can receive them by October 1, 2010,"

Comments may be submitted by regular mail to: Superintendent, Gettysburg National Military Park, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100, Gettysburg, PA 17325; via the Internet at www.nps.gov/gett, click on "Management" and then click on "Public Involvement" or at parkplanning.nps.gov; e-mail us or by fax to 717/ 334-1891, attn: Cyclorama building.

For more information or questions concerning the planning process, please contact park management assistant Katie Lawhon at 717/ 334-1124 x 3121.

Comments

Please tear this building down. It is a hideous modern intrusion into the Gettysburg landscape that detracts from the 1863 landscape appearance. Someone mentioned an auction. The "Neutra" group was given the option to buy it for one dollar and move the building. They declined. That group couldn't raise enough money to even move it three feet. With no monetary outpouring from the Architectual Preservation crowd, it would seem that the whole legal process was a needless waste of time and tax-payers' money. Can't wait for the building to be demolished.


Not sure why this is even an issue.  The building is functionally obsolete, and looks like it belongs at a sewage treatment plant, not a civil war battlefield.   


The ground the building sits on is historic. The painting it once housed is historic. The building is not. Just tear it down and move on. We have wasted enough time fighting over this piece of junk. Spending money to make the structure able to be used again would be on the edge of stupid. Being forced to do so would be idiotic. It is now an obsolete moldy,crumbling, rusting, flaking of probably lead paint on to the battlefield and its visitors. The money needed to make this building safe and healthy to be in would be in the millions.
There are more important projects like operating, restoring and keeping the battlefield in a condition that honors those who fell there and the cause for which they fought. But we have to spending it on lawyers and court fees to fight a ridiculous lawsuit.
Sorry Mr. Neutra you father's building must come down.


The building is too far gone to restore. HVAC system would have to be completely replaced a great expense. It should be torn down and recycled as far as possible. Restore the site to battlefield condition.
Also, after spending a full day at the park, I did not find one significant memorial to the civilians who were wounded, killed, or risked their lives to save and care for the wounded and dying on both sides. It would be fitting to create a memorial to them, and list their names. War is not glorious, though often it is a terrible necessity that takes its toll on the innocent as well as the combatants.


Looks like a big tuna can, put it in the recyclables and set it on the curb.


Y'all know that the ground is not to be restored to its "1863 condition" right? The NPS has revealed drawings for the site that show retention of the Rosensteel parking lot for more than 40 buses and some number of cars as well.


Dear Catherine: this decrepit and poorly engineered building is by no means Richard Neutra's best work.

Neutra is best known for domestic buildings; he built private houses. That is what his reputation is built on, and why he is known, insofar as he is known. People tried to say this building is distinctive because it is one of his few public buildings, compared to his private homes.

A major push was made in the past to certify this building as worthy to be a National Historic Landmark, again arguing it as a rare example of a Neutra public building. The Secretary's Advisory Council on National Parks and Monuments rejected those arguments. Neutra should have stuck with houses, something he knew.

The building was so poorly designed that it failed in its main purpose, protecting the Cyclorama. Amazingly, it was too small to properly stretch the canvas to its original shape, so the painting began to crack, and if you walked around it, everyday you saw new pieces of paint scattered beneath like dandruff. Appalling.

I am not opposed in principle to celebrity architects, nor to modern and inventive architecture. But this building was poorly sited and failed in the key obsession of modern architecture: function. It never worked.

But the merits of the Neutra building, even if you do not agree with this assessment of the Cyclorama building, are not what this fight is about. This fight is just about fighting, it is about men trying to get even with each other, and throwing every weapon or rationalization they can at each other to be as destructive as possible. Originally, it even seemed as if some of the pro-Neutra partisans would have been happy to tear down the building if only they had won the contract. But, they didn't. As Tallyrand said: "they never learn, and they never forget. . ." There is no doubt that the previous superintendent made himself the issue or the target, but he was right to try to rethink the core interpretive message at Gettysburg: the meaning not the tactics of the war, and the value of the hollowed ground.

Time to let these silly fights go.


Can I, a s a foreigner, but committed Civil War enthusiast make a contribution? The value of the building is a matter for architectural historians. As a military historian I do not feel qualified to comment one way or the other. As a military historian I cannot see any argument for retaining the building on the current site. If the building is to be retained solely on it's architectural merit - and there may be good reasons for that - then the actual location of the building is not significant; anyone who wants to visit it can be mnade aware (though they surely shouild not need to be made aware) that the building was, origanlly, located on Gettysburg battlefield.
Architiectural historians should, by all means, endeavour to presserve the building if it is atrisitcially significant, but not on any part of the battlefield. We have a similar problem here is Scotland. In the 1960s a vast and hideous structure was built at the site of one of the three actions of the Battle of Bannockburn. Much as the NTS (owners of the site) would like to have it demolished, it has 'A listed' status, so it is impossible to get rid of - though, possibly unlike the Neutra building - it has no archtiectural merit whatsoever. If the Neutra building is allowed to remain 'in situ' despite having lost its function (housing the cyclorama) it will be a white lelphant and the longer it stands there, the harder it will be to get rid of.


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