The battle over Pennsylvania’s mid-century Cyclorama Center is nearing an end. Located in the heart of the Gettysburg National Military Park, the concrete and glass cylindrical drum was designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra and completed in 1962 under the ambitious Mission 66 initiative aimed to improve visitor services at national parks.
Controversy surrounding the building’s fate started in 1999, when the National Park Service first announced plans to demolish it. This sparked a raging battle between 20th century architecture supporters and Civil War purists, ultimately leading to the federal court.
However, despite these relentless efforts, the structures fate appears to be dismal.
Opposition began when the park service announced it’s plans to move forward with the demolition after the 19th century, 377-foot long Paul Philippoteaux’s painting depicting the battle of Pickett’s Charge was moved to a newly constructed facility located elsewhere on the the battlefield grounds. Water leakage, resulting from poor maintenance, had damaged the historical cyclorama and led to a multi-million dollar restoration in 2008.
The Recent Past Preservation Network and Dion Neutra, the architect’s son, fought the decision by suing the National Park Service. A 2009 court decision demanded that the Gettysburg National Military Park complete a comprehensive review of the building and consider alternative solutions, as they did not follow the proper procedure specified in the National Environmental Protection Act and in the National Historic Preservation Act in developing plans to demolish the Cyclorama Center.
Last week, the 200-page analysis was released and the report’s final recommendation was to tear it down.
“The park service has no need for the continued use of the building,” said park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon. “Its retention is in conflict with the overall goals of the park.”
“Demolition best meets the park objectives of protecting and preserving cultural and natural resources by rehabilitating the landscape of the 1863 battle at Gettysburg and its veteran-designed commemoration,” the report said.