Thursday, June 26, 2008

News---Will The Old Cyclorama Building Have Its Day In Court?

Cyclorama Lawsuit May Get A Federal Hearing, Scott Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, June 24, 2008.

The Virginia-based group that’s hoping to save the old Gettysburg Cyclorama building from demolition has filed a request to settle the ongoing lawsuit in federal court. Gettysburg National Military Park intends to raze the structure, which sits within Ziegler’s Grove near the old Visitor Center building, but the Recent Past Preservation Network believes the circular structure is architecturally significant.

“There is good cause for an oral hearing in that the issues raised in Plaintiffs’ motion are complex, the Administrative Record for this case is lengthy, and there continue to be significant legal disagreements between the parties,” wrote attorney Nicholas C. Yost, who represents the Recent Past Preservation Network, in court documents filed June 20.

Dion Neutra, the son of the late Richard Neutra who designed the old Cyclorama building, is also involved in the lawsuit. Neutra and the Recent Past Preservation Network contend that the park’s decision to destroy the complex violates national preservation laws. “We find it very unlikely that the project will be stopped,” GNMP Supt. Dr. John A. Latschar said during a recent Advisory Committee session. He also indicated during the meeting that the lawsuit would probably result in a court hearing.

The Recent Past Preservation Network is arguing that the National Park Service never fully considered alternative options when it chose to demolish the old complex. Planning for the new museum and visitor center began nearly 14 years ago. The park, wanting to house its entire collection of one million Civil War artifacts under one roof, opted to relocate to a much larger facility along the Baltimore Pike and rehab the old site back to its 1863 appearance. The group also contends that the Park Service, in its General Management Plan of 1999 and associated Environmental Impact Statement, “studiously avoid” restoration and rehabilitation alternatives.

The original lawsuit was docketed in December 2006 — since then, thousands of documents have been filed in federal court relating to the case, some more than hundreds of pages long. Several months ago, the Recent Past Preservation Network filed a motion for summary judgement, seeking a resolution without a full trial. The motion was met with a response by the National Park Service. To date, presiding Judge Thomas F. Hogan has yet to rule on the motions.

The park claims that the building is set upon ground where nearly 900 Union and Confederate soldiers died, were captured or wounded during Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. A new visitor center and museum opened in April along the 1100 block of the Baltimore Pike south of Gettysburg, and the old facility in Ziegler’s Grove — situated between Taneytown Road and Steinwehr Avenue — closed permanently to visitors and is awaiting demolition. The new $103 million complex is 139,000 square-feet, more than double the size of the old facility.

The 377 foot-long by 42 foot-high Cyclorama painting was moved to a gallery in the new building, and the artwork is now hung in its original hyperbolic shape. Conservators are restoring the 200-year-old painting to its original appearance, and bringing back lost features. Work is expected to conclude in the upcoming weeks, and a grand opening is scheduled for late September.

Contact Scot Pitzer at 334-1131, ext. 247 or

Text Source:
Picture: Figures 31, 32, 33. Elevations and plans for the Gettysburg Visitor Center and Cyclorama Building, June 1959. From Chapter 3, Mission 66. Courtesy National Park Service Technical Information Center, Denver Service Center.

CWL: The history of the Neutra plans for the Cyclorama Building is in the online book Mission 66, Chapter 3 at this wwwsite.

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