Saying Goodbye to the Cyclorama Building

cyclorama21Old Visitors Center and Cyclorama Building
update: Demolished
Cyclorama Drive
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania


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.







View Larger Map

>   Some lovely interior shots plus schematics

>   Richard & Dion Neutra Architecture

>   About “Mission 66”

>   The original building that housed one of the Gettysburg Cyclorama paintings … in Boston!

10 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to the Cyclorama Building

  1. There was another Neutra building destroyed in CA ten years ago that caught my attention because of how quickly it was done. I think we are going to see lots more older buildings with historic significance come down in the coming years. The claim that it’s cheaper to tear it down than fix it is very loud.

  2. What makes this a travesty is that this building is unique and has architectural value, regardless of the fact that the painting was moved.

    It struck me when I saw the photo with the stone wall. How often do you see stone walls anymore, especially in new construction?

    I’m sorry; I can see how upsetting this outcome was for you.

    1. We were down in Gettysburg the weekend before last when the guys in hazmat suits were clearing out the inside. Last week they knocked down the oblong side of the building; I think the rest of it came down today ;(

  3. I was one of the last groups to see the painting in the Neutra building. I was there in September 2005, and it was removed and the building closed in November. I am a Civil War historian who totally understands the need to preserve what is left of the battlefields. However, the Neutra Cyclorama building was historic in its own right. Not only was it a great example of mid-century architecture, and not only was it a design by one of several forward-thinking mid-century architects, but it was also a very real part of Civil War history, having been built in honor of the centennial of the war. I thought that saving it was in the bag, and was quite in shock last night when I found that it had been destroyed back in March! What a shame! It is quite unfortunate that mid-century architecture and design doesn’t receive the full attention that it should as something that should be saved. At least two of this year’s 11 most endangered from the National Trust are mid-century!

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