RIP Gettysburg Cyclorama Building


Word came today that the National Park Service will begin demolition of the old Cyclorama building at Gettysburg.  It was just a matter of time.  I never had a real problem with it being there, though I admit it was sort of an eyesore.  I also have no problem with removing it for that reason, but what I have little patience for is that in doing so we are returning the battlefield to its 1863 appearance.  That is little more than a comforting fiction.  If that were the case we would remove all the monuments as well.

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4 comments… add one
  • Eric Mink Jan 10, 2013 @ 16:02

    There’s some confusion about what the park is really planning to do. Part of this confusion, I think, is the terminology being used. What the park plans to do is not a restoration of the landscape, but a rehabilitation. That’s what it states in the press release posted on the park website today. The release states: “The decision document, known as a Finding of No Significant Impact, or “FONSI,”calls for demolition of the Cyclorama building in order to rehabilitate North Cemetery Ridge on the Gettysburg battlefield to its historic 1863 battle, and 1864 – 1938 commemorative-era appearance.”

    It does not appear that the park is planning a restoration, which the NPS defines as “the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period.” Instead, the park is planning a rehabilitation, which is “the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.”

    The rehabilitation of a landscape can involve adapting it for a use (visitation, touring, etc.), while retaining elements that convey its importance and significance. The park may open vistas. Buildings may come down. Monuments, however, will remain and Hancock Avenue will not be removed. It sounds like the park is planning to create and enhance the interpretive experience. Restoration of North Cemetery Ridge is not the park’s stated intent. Understanding the difference between restoration and rehabilitation may help clear up some of the confusion.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 10, 2013 @ 16:06

      That definitely helps, Eric. Thanks. I assume that the removal of the building will enhance the interpretive experience. Referring to it as a rehabilitation makes perfect sense to me as opposed to those who believe that is a step in the re-creation of the 1863 battlefield.

  • margaretdblough Jan 10, 2013 @ 13:13

    You’re wrong on battlefield restoration, Kevin. There has been a lot reclaimed over the last few decades and they have aided our understanding of the battle. The monuments, many of which were erected by the men who fought at Gettysburg, don’t interfere with the viewshed and add the voice of the veterans. I remember when the initial project, the rehabilitation of the Codori-Trostle thicket was finished. I was up at the Signal Corps plaque on Little Round Top and I was stunned at what I could see. It’s not perfect and never will be, but it’s a lot better than a guide holding up photos about what the place used to looked like before all the obstructions were up.

    The Cyclorama Building was a mistake. Many historians and preservations fought it. It never should have been there. It should have been gone long before this.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 10, 2013 @ 13:17

      Not sure what I am wrong about. I agree that the new viewsheds have aided our understanding of the battle. That the veterans themselves established the monuments is, on one level, irrelevant. If they are of some value and considered now to be a permanent feature of the battlefield than we should frame this as restoring the battlefield to its appearance at the turn of the 20th century.

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