Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases
Pennsylvania: Visitor Center and Museum Complex––Gettysburg National Military Park
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October 1998 Developments
In September, the Keeper of the National Register responded to the Council's referral, on behalf of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), regarding eligibility of the Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg National Military Park for the National Register. The Keeper determined that the property, built in 1958, is exceptionally significant despite being less than fifty years old. The Keeper determined that the property is eligible for its exceptional historic and architectural significance relating to its association with the National Park Service's Mission 66 construction program and with the building's well-known architect, Richard Neutra.
Cyclorama Building, Gettysburg National Military Park
The Council has notified the park, the SAH, and others of the Keeper's determination and is working with the Park Service to fulfill its Section 106 responsibilities. The Council has been invited to participate as a full consulting party in the Section 106 review and is recommending coordination of the review with that of the General Management Plan.
The National Park Service proposes to construct a new Visitor Center and Museum Complex at Gettysburg National Military Park. The proposal has been paired with a plan to demolish the existing Visitor's Center and the Cyclorama Building. The Cyclorama Building, with its drum-shaped exhibition theater, was named for the painting it was designed to exhibit, a panoramic depiction of the pivotal battle action Pickett's Charge.
The park favors removal of the structures, not expressly to make way for the proposed new complex, but to restore the historic landscape where the buildings stand. As part of a broad program of landscape restoration, the park proposes to restore the area, traditionally known as Ziegler's Grove, which was a site of intense battle activity. In turn, the new Visitor Center and Museum, which will exhibit the Cyclorama painting and house the park's extensive collections, would be sited where research indicates no evidence of important battle-related events. These proposals build upon fundamental planning decisions in the park's Land Protection Plan of 1993. (That document also commits the park to eventual demolition of the Gettysburg Tower, a structure whose construction was bitterly opposed by preservationists in the 1970s and which prompted the Council to prepare formal recommendations on the park's need to plan for preservation into the future.)
The visitor center proposal has been controversial because of the park's stated intention of pursuing the project as a partnership with a non-profit entity. Proposals solicited by the park have included facilities such as a movie theater, shops, and other related development. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Civil War Trust have embraced the partnership concept as exemplifying a spirit of responsible entrepreneurialism. Others have expressed concerns about the proposal's potential to encompass commercial enterprises that could be incompatible with the park's historic values. The park has responded to initial objections by scaling back the size and extent of the proposal and pledging to ensure that the project's design is fully reviewed for compatibility with the solemn and dignified character of the battlefield.
For Section 106 purposes, the Park had reached consensus with the Pennsylvania SHPO early in the planning process that both the Cyclorama Building and the existing Visitor Center were ineligible for listing on the National Register. In March, however, SAH challenged that determination, and the Council referred the issue of the eligibility of the Cyclorama Building to the Keeper.
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