Authorities at Gettysburg National Military Park announced that they are exploring the feasibility of relocating Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Building to a less conspicuous location. This may be the least bad option given the possibility that the Park Service may never be granted the authority to demolish the site.
I am always sympathetic to the arguments of architectural historians and preservationists that we are losing too much of our cultural heritage. Every time I walk through the travesty that is the current Penn Station I rue the loss of the magisterial original. It is fair to argue, too, that Neutra’s Gettysburg building is now itself part of the history of the evolution of the park, part of the Mission 66 project and designed to reflect the stature of the United States during the Cold War and Space Age. Still, despite the nostalgia that many feel for the building they visited during their youth, the fact remains that the building never worked. For one thing the Modernist structure sits incongruously atop Ziegler’s Grove on Cemetery Ridge, the site of some of the hardest fighting on Day 3 of the battle. It was also structurally unsound, leaking frequently, and responsible for a great deal of the damage the Cyclorama incurred in the decades it was housed in the building. Besides, there are plenty of representative Neutra buildings still standing.
Whatever happens, a permanent solution to the Cyclorama Building issue will hopefully be forthcoming in the intermediate future. Stay tuned.