Gettysburg’s Cyclorama building, which once housed famous painting, to be razed

The Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, Pa., shown Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The National Park Service announced Thursday that it plans to demolish the old modernist Cyclorama building in Gettysburg that once served as a visitor center and home to the famous Cyclorama painting of the battle.

The curving, white concrete and glass building was commissioned by the park service and erected between 1959 and 1962 at a central location on the Civil War battlefield south of Gettysburg.

With touches of aluminum and local fieldstone, as well as an observation deck, the building was a showcase for generations of tourists and history buffs.

For years, it served as the home of a 377-foot-long painting of the battle done by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in 1884. It also housed the “electric map” of the battle, in which blue and red lights illustrated the progress of the battle.

The building was closed to the public in 2005 and the painting moved to a new museum and visitor center in 2007. The map was reportedly auctioned off to a local developer.

The building has been shuttered, overgrown and empty for the past few years.

The old building was designed by the famous modernist architect Richard Neutra, who once graced the cover of Time magazine. It placed visitors in the center of the battlefield, which they could see through extensive windows.

Despite efforts to save it, the building clashed with the landscape of the local farmland and with the effort to return the battlefield to the way it appeared in July 1863.

Demolition could begin this winter, the park service said.

“That’s our intention,” said Catherine Lawhon, a spokeswoman for the battlefield park, “to proceed with demolition and rehabilitation of this key part of the battlefield.”

The park said that its nonprofit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation, has funds for the demolition.

Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.


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