What Should Gettysburg 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.

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