Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Gettysburg Cyclorama Center: a lingering last look

The first time I saw the Cyclorama Center, I think 1961, it was still under construction. To my nine-year-old eyes it looked like a big oil storage tank. Today, 45 years later, that building is slated for destruction sometime in 2008 - maybe.

How does an architectural marvel like the Richard Joseph Neutra-designed Gettysburg Cyclorama Center go from a world class building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) to a candidate for matriculation into the nearest landfill in less than 50 years?

Today I went and paid my last respects to two old friends- the Cyclorama Center and the Gettysburg Visitors Center (the old Rosensteel Museum).

Both of these buildings are slated for destruction following the opening of the new visitors center sometime in 2008. As the entepot for my life-long interest in the Civil War, I will miss these two places and the experiences that I had with my dad and older brother when we, as budding Civil War pilgrims, first entered those wonderous doors of electric maps, spent minne balls, and giant paintings.

I wish Gettysburg National Military Park only the best with its new visitors center. At the same time, I cherish the memories that made Gettysburg such an important place to me and countless other nine-year-olds.

(click on the images for larger versions)
The Cyclorama Center is sited among mature trees.

The former reflecting pool, not quite as the architect intended when he wrote "...a pool reflecting the everlasting sky over all of us."

When walking around in the building I always expected George and Jane Jetson to come around the corner of the...
space-age stairwell

The reflecting pool, or at least what was the reflecting pool, as viewed from inside.

The spiral walkway up to the rotunda which housed the giant 360-degree Gettysburg cyclorama painting (currently under restoration).

One of the most intriguing aspects of the building is this very simple display of faux wreckage of battle at the base of the rotunda ramp. Several disabled and shattered guns, limbers and muskets in a dirt and rock setting which often have visitors asking if this is a preserved portion of the battle's aftermath.

The vaults which used to house and display the Gettysburg address manuscript in Lincoln's handwriting.

And now, sadly, the Norma Desmond photos, the pretty pass that this once magnificent building has come to.

The once stylish lounge is now a mix of original and replacement furniture in various states of repair, all contrasting nicely with the buckled and worn carpet.

One of numerous unrepaired cracks in what once was a very handsome terrazzo floor.

Once stylish furniture that's seen better days.

One of many broken, and unrepaired windows.

I think time has run out for Nuetra's once wonderful building.

Take some time to visit an old friend, while you still can.


Anonymous said...

It was great to read your comments about Neutra's Cylorama Center at Gettysburg. You're not the only one dismayed by the proposed demolition of this modernist icon. For more information about the history of this landmark building, and efforts to preserve it, please visit www.mission66.com/cyclorama.

oviddawen said...

I enjoyed your comments about the Cyclorama Center. And I've recently been researching the building a bit myself. I'm curious to know if you could share a source for your statement about the building's inclusion in the NRHP. The NRHP database does not show list the building in a nationwide search for "cyclorama", nor in a search for buildings with the architect "Neutra". And it appears to me as though close reading of the NRHP judgment from 1996 indicates that the building was deemed eligible, but not, after all, listed.

Mannie Gentile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.