As part of the ongoing dilemma over the future of the old Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, the National Park Service is studying how to relocate the structure.
According to Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby, the park has hired a consultant to review comments it received during its federally-mandated environmental assessment of the cylindrical building, which sits atop Ziegler's Grove.
The park owns the mammoth 49-year-old complex, designed by the late Richard Neutra, but it has been closed since 2006, when the park launched a $16 million renovation of the painting that it once housed.
"There is a lot going on behind the scenes," Kirby said Aug. 18, during a GNMP Advisory Commission meeting.
"We realized we didn't look at the alternatives," continued Kirby, adding that "serious studies" have resulted to gauge relocation costs. "In order to move it out, we need to figure out how to do it, so it can stay intact, and where to move it," said Kirby.
"It is a mountain of paperwork," Kirby said regarding the review process, which began in the spring of 2006, when a U.S. judge ruled that the park must revisit its Cyclorama demolition plans, because it did not consider alternatives.
Relocation is just one option that has been identified by the park. The other three options are: keeping the building on its current site and "moth-balling" it; reusing the building on its current site; or demolishing the building to bring back missing features from 1863.
The park has contracted Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. to "complete the detailed environmental analysis" for its four possible alternatives" with the old Cyclorama building.
Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon pointed out that the park is looking at "specific issues related to each alternative."
The old Cyclorama Center has been closed and vacant for six years, coinciding with a $16 million effort to restore a 360-degree painting of Pickett's Charge. After the project, the painting was put back on display in the new Battlefield Visitor Center, along the Baltimore Pike.
The park planned to demolish the building, as part of its general management plan of 1999, and restore Ziegler's Grove to its Civil War era appearance of 1863. Demolition is still an option, but the park must thoroughly consider other alternatives, before reaching the decision.
The park is working with the consultant to review its environmental assessment of the building, that was not done as part of its original 1999 general management plan, and is why a preservation group sued the park in 2006.
Court documents state an engineering company that previously relocated an airport terminal and lighthouse believed that it could relocate the old Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg for a preliminary cost of about $5 million. That cost has not been verified.
Asked previously what he'd like to see happen with the 49-year-old structure, Kirby responded that he is a "public servant, and as always, I'll defer to what I think is the best scholarship and the will of the people - as best as we can facilitate it - and then we'll take it from there," he said.
The park's General Management Plan of 1999 called for the Cyclorama Center, which sits atop historic Ziegler's Grove near Pickett's Charge, to be demolished, as part of a landscape rehab plan, to transform the land to its Civil War appearance of 1863. A lawsuit was filed to block the demolition in 2006, by a Virginia-based preservation group and the son of the architect that designed the building, Richard Neutra.
The lawsuit meandered its way through federal court for four years, before a final ruling was cast in March 2010. U.S. Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that the park did not follow federal environmental laws when it decided to raze the Cyclorama Center, because it failed to consider alternatives to demolition.
After a judge ruled that the park must reconsider its demolition plans, the park solicited public comments through Sept. 2010, and received 1,800 suggestions concerning the fate of the 49-year-old building. Historians and architects consider the building, designed by the late Richard Neutra, as an engineering masterpiece, while other battlefield preservationists would like to see it razed.
Once the "environmental assessment" is complete, Kirby said it would be released to the public.
Situated between Taneytown Road and Steinwehr Avenue, the 45-acre property was the scene of Pickett's Charge and the High Water Mark. Previously, the Cyclorama Center housed a 377-foot long, 432-foot high painting of the battle, but the painting reopened in the new Visitor Center in Sept. 2008, following a $16 million restoration. The former Visitor Center was demolished in 2008-09.
Built in 1962 by world-renowned architect Richard Neutra, the Cyclorama was commissioned by a federal government program, and constructed atop land where major battle action occurred in the Battle of Gettysburg.