The battle that started in 1999 between the National Park Service and parties who were interested in preserving the Cyclorama Building in Gettysburg has ended. Demolition of the unique visitors center (part of the historic “Mission 66” project) will begin in the next few weeks.
A version of this post has been in my draft file since October of 2011. Over the past 15 months I have written, re-written, and edited it a number of times. My first draft included 15 paragraphs of historical background information, lawsuit information, and impassioned wishful thinking. There were a number of reasons why I never clicked “publish”. One reason was that I never felt that I had written a piece that included all the aspects that I wished to include without it being ridiculously lengthy.
The structure was designed by Austrian American architect Richard J. Neutra (one of the most celebrated modernist architects) to house the 1883 panoramic painting of Pickett’s Charge by Paul Philippoteaux, and to serve as the national park’s visitor center. I won’t go back down the “15-paragraph rabbit hole” again; but there are a number of links at the end of this post that provide in-depth information about this unique building that is singing the final notes of its swan song.
Neutra’s visionary masterpiece was officially closed to the public in 2005. The famous Cyclorama painting was removed and eventually placed in the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center in 2008. Since then, it appears little has been done (perhaps by design) to protect the building from further decay. The grounds immediately surrounding it are littered with years worth of accumulated leaves and various other forms of debris (very much in contrast to the other very well-manicured parts of the national park). I took the majority of these pictures in October of 2011 and a few additional shots in November of 2012.
The second story windows in the picture below are on the ground floor if you approach the building from the other side.
The old first floor lobby/reception area – taken through the cleanest section of glass that I could find.
View from the opposite side of the building (where the second floor is ground level).
This was the sloped walk that brought people to the observation deck.
Forlorn-looking information kiosk through the second story window.
Water damage exacerbated by years of neglect.
A few parting glances at a building that I think deserved more than its 50 years of service.