06 November 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 14 comments

From yesterday’s issue of The Gettysburg Times:

Park Service holds off on Cyclorama demolition pending court decision

BY SCOT ANDREW PITZER
Times Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 7:00 AM EST

A compromise has been reached in the planned razing of the former Cyclorama building at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The park has decided that “no demolition of the building will take place,” pending the resolution of a two-year-old lawsuit to save the building.

“During this time, the National Park Service will solicit bids for demolition of the Cyclorama building and the former visitor center, and plans to undertake the demolition of the former visitor center,” U.S. Dept. of Justice attorney Samantha Klein wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to U.S. District Court. “However, the National Park Service will inform all potential bidders…that no demolition of the Cyclorama Building take place prior to the district court’s ruling on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment.”

A Virginia based agency, The Recent Past Preservation Network, and the son of the architect who designed the building — Dion Neutra — filed a suit to save the structure.

The park, meanwhile, intends to tear it down and restore that portion of the Gettysburg Battlefield to its 1863 appearance.

In a court hearing last week in Washington, D.C., a federal judge ordered the park to notify the court whether it planned to proceed with plans to demolish the building. Park officials had announced that they wanted to solicit bids this month, and begin demolition shortly thereafter. U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay said that a decision on the lawsuit probably won’t be made until December.

Kay heard motions for a summary judgment, a legal term meaning that a judge rules on a case without it going to a full trial.

He plans to file a recommendation with acting Judge Thomas F. Hogan, but doubted that paperwork would be filed until mid-December.

The old Cyclorama building is located atop Ziegler’s Grove with the former park visitor center, built atop land that was home to fierce fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Previously, the cylindrical building had housed a famous painting of Pickett’s Charge, but the artwork was moved to a new $103 million visitor center located about one mile away.

Both the former visitor center and the old Cyclorama closed in April when the new visitor center opened.

The Recent Past Preservation group believes that the building can be relocated to another property in Gettysburg, and that it could be used as a museum or theater. Preliminary conversations have been held between the group and Gettysburg area businessmen Eric Uberman and Bob Monahan Jr., about potential new sites for the building.

“The Park Service never looked at an alternative to demolition in how to remove the building,” said Recent Past Preservation attorney Nicholas Yost.

Government officials said that the building is outdated, that it has undergone 30 repairs since the 1960s, and that the goal is to recreate that area of the battlefield to its Civil War appearance.

According to historians, 900 soldiers fought there during Pickett’s Charge, in what is dubbed The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.

Also, the park has questioned the validity of the lawsuit, filed in December 2006.

The six-year statute of limitations began in 1999, the park said, when it adopted its General Management Plan, and expired in 2005.

Let’s begin with the initial proposition that this thing never, ever should have been built where it is. With that as the underlying assumption, there’s the fact that the thing is just plain butt ugly. The building leaks like a sieve. I’m something of a student of architecture, and I appreciate modern architecture. However, what I don’t get–and never will–is why anybody other than Richard Neutra’s kid thinks that this hideous monstrosity should be saved, let alone be moved at astronomic expense footed by taxpayers. Does that mean that we’re going to start saving historic Waffle Houses now?

Tear it down. And don’t waste another dime of taxpayer money on this nonsense.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Thu 06th Nov 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Amen to that!

  2. Steve Basic
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 12:00 am

    Eric,

    Shaking my head here as well, but then again nothing surprises me anymore of the strange doings in Gettysburg. It must be the ghosts. 🙂

    BTW, The Waffle House is a national institution. 🙂 It’s like Bellevue here in NYC, but with better food. 🙂

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  3. Sean Dail
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 12:30 am

    I’ll bite, Eric. I don’t see what the big deal is about tearing it down – the historic ground has been forever destroyed, and if anything “restoring” that part of the battlefield will only be misleading to future students of the battle. We can never again know what it looked like in July of 1863. So what’s the hurry to tear the thing down while it is the subject of litigation? I really don’t feel that strongly about it one way or the other – I just don’t understand why some folks hate it so much.

  4. Randy
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 10:29 am

    Eric:
    Whether one thinks that building is ugly or not (and it is), the fact remains that it was built in a completely inapropriate place and should be removed. In any event, I have trouble seeing the basis of plaintiff’s action. NPS owns the building and wants to tear it down. It is not, so far as I can tell, subject to any protected zoning or covenants which require or allow its preservation. Case closed; tear the thing down. I say this as an ardent preservationist. As far as moving it…well, the mind boggles.

    Randy

  5. Ptrostle
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Eric,

    I’m not certain it would be moved at taxpayer expense. I think, although have no evidence to which I can point to assure the validity of the assertion, that the gentlemen mentioned would pay the expense of moving the structure.

    Phil

  6. Deb
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Whether the buidling is ugly or not, it is a historic part of Gettysburg. Every part of our landscape changes from year to year and why do we have to fight over what is more historical? Are these battles waged in other historic area’s less important? Let’s tear down all of Boston to return it how it apeared at the time of the Revolution. Let us tear down and sink all of Lower Manhatten and return it New Amsterdam.

    A past gernation made a choice to build it, just as this generation made a choice to build the new Visitor’s center, which in some eyes is just as much an eyesore and wasted space. I think we should preserve the building because it’s self is a piece of history.

  7. Charlie Knight
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Move it to Lake Havasu – case closed.

  8. Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Naw, it is a government building declared surplus. As such, any government agency (fed, state, or local) gets first dibs on the old structure. Worse yet, if the gov orgs don’t want it, non-profit organizations can petition for use. Next thing we know, a homeless shelter is on Cemetery Hill….

  9. Terry O'Brien
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I had been wondering where things stood now that it was vacant. This is a preposterous piece of litigation that, unfortunately, will likely grind on long after the District Court’s anticipated ruling in December. Even if the District Court rejects the plaintiffs’ case, I have little doubt that appeals will follow, with the end result being that the Park will be hobbled from proceeding with resoring the land for at least a year.

  10. Ann
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Hey you have a very interesting blog and you have very interesting articles.

    Continue with this, I will come back.
    Ann

  11. Mike Clem
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Don’t tear it down — blow it up! It should suffer the same fate (and provide us with as much entertainment) as did its hideous private sector cousin, the infamous Tower. If you get the dynamite, I’ll bring the match.

  12. Rock
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 7:05 pm

    This is amazing, but considering how things have been lately, I can’t say it is unbelievable. They should do the same thing they did with the Electric Map… If someone wants the building they can have it. As long as they come get it, pack it up and take it away. Ha Ha.

    The other day, a thought came to my mind when I was reading an article about property rights and eminent domain. Why can’t we use the premise of eminent domain to acquire endangered battlefields and sites? If eminent domain can be used (abused) to kick someone out of his house so a mall or apartment building can be built, why can’t it be imposed for saving historic sites? That land would be used for the benefit of the public, wouldn’t it?

    Let’s combine both of these things… sell the old Cyclorama Building to a private company and then confiscate the land under eminent domain.

  13. Michael Lynch
    Fri 07th Nov 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Regarding “Deb”‘s comment (“Let’s tear down all of Boston to return it how it apeared at the time of the Revolution. Let us tear down and sink all of Lower Manhatten and return it New Amsterdam.”), I say that sounds great! When do we start?

    Michael Lynch

  14. Brian S.
    Mon 10th Nov 2008 at 10:30 am

    All,

    I don’t think they can move it at all. Isn’t it pretty much solid concrete?? Get rid of it. Brian

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