The Campaign to Save Richard Neutra's
Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg

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Letters Supporting Preservation of
Richard Neutra's Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Despite the following letters of support from leading architectural experts worldwide and two trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Advisory Committee refused to grant the Cyclorama Building National Historic Landmark status (although they approved the listing of three other Mission 66 visitor centers at the same meeting in November 2000).

The National Park Service and the Department of the Interior are moving ahead with their plans to demolish this architecturally and historically significant building, not to build again on the same site but to "restore" the open field to its 1863 condition--an impossibility in consideration of massive private developments and the profusion of post-Civil War monuments and roads in the immediate area.

Alphabetically listed by author's last name. All letters public record. Link to PDF images to view original document (will open/download automatically). Full typed text of any letter available by request from Christine Madrid French.

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From the Public:
"I am writing to support your efforts to save the Gettysburg Cyclorama Center that has been slated for demolition by the federal government. By choosing to save this landmark building, the government will demonstrate a commitment to preserving an architectural, historical, and artistically-significant link to the past. Moreover, we will retain an important link to the Age of Cyclorama painting, an art form to which the building can claim heredity. ..." From Graham F. Watts, Toronto, Canada. Read more of Mr. Watts letter here.

American Institute of Architects (AIA) Resolutions to Preserve the Cyclorama Building
15 March 1997, Washington, D.C.
AIA Historic Resources Committee, adopted unanimously
"We find the determination of eligibility report to be much more complete and balanced in the areas reflecting Civil War activities in the area of the Visitor Center and the Cyclorama Building, than in the section concerning the building and its architects...Considering the internationally important status of the architect, Richard Neutra, FAIA, and the very small number of his commissionis built in the Mid-Atlantic region, the building assumes an importance greater than the reviewer allowed...In view of this we request a rethinking and reevaluation of the determination [of eligibility]"
Link to PDF Image of Letter

16 March 2000, Washington, D.C.
AIA Historic Resources Committee
"[We view] with alarm the pending demolition of the Visitor Center and Cyclorama Building at was, and is one of the most important buildings constructed by the NPS during the 20th century....This Committee...cannot condone the demolition of this nationally important 20th century icon, designed by an internationally acclaimed 20th century architect, and urge that the decision to demolish the building be reconsidered and reversed."
Link to PDF Image of Letter


J. Carter Brown, Chairman, The Commission of Fine Arts, and Director emeritus, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., to Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 17 March 1999 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"The theme-park concept of falsely recreating a landscape that can never be put back to 1863 is an unconscionable intellectual travesty.... Every conceivable effort should be made to protect and restore this exceptional building."
Susan Eisenhower, Co-Chairman, White House Millennium Council and the National Trusts' Save America's Treasures program; Trustee, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Chevy Chase, MD, to Secretary of the Interior, 23 January 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"Are we willing to tear this monument down simply because it was built by our generation and therefore is somehow disposable? If left standing, I have no doubt that our grandchildren will see the significance of Neutra's expression, just as we appreciate today the impulse that prompted the construction of other battlefield monuments in times past."
Arthur C. Erickson, Architect, AIA Gold Medalist, Vancouver, Canada, to the National Register of Historic Places, 30 October 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"In a monument as important as this, well established in the visitor's mind--the designation [as a National Historic Landmark] should not be deterred by its age. Age is of little consequence to significance....Must the National Park Service, having been lauded for their wisdom in choosing a distinguished architect for a respected seminal monument now renege on that promising direction to follow old paths of mediocrity?"
Sir Norman Foster, Architect, Foster and Partners architects and designers, London, England, to the National Register of Historic Places, 20 October 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"The legacy of modern architecture by architects of the stature of Richard Neutra is critical beyond your shores....Once gone it can never be returned....Here in Europe we look to you for inspiration and leadership in more matters than heritage issues. It gives me no satisfaction to tell you that if Neutra's building were here in the European Union it would have been listed and preserved decades ago."
Frank Gehry, Architect, Frank O. Gehry & Associates, Inc., Santa Monica, California, to the National Register of Historic Places, 13 November 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"Architecture is a small piece of the human equation, but for those of us who practice it, we believe in its potential to make a difference, to enlighten and to enrich the human experience, and to penetrate the barriers of misunderstanding....Richard Neutra envisioned the Cyclorama Building as a site for solemn contemplation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and a frame for the events that inspired it. His building reflects the highest ideals of his own time, and deserves the highest appreciation of ours."

James V. Hansen, Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, to Honorable Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, dated January 25, 1999 Link to text of letter
It has come to my attention that there are numerous and significant problems associated with the Gettysburg National Military Park and the general management plan (GMP). These problems are contained in both the substance and the procedure of the GMP, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) associated with the GMP, and the planned construction of the visitor's center. Without hesitation, I can tell you that there is very strong opposition being voiced by the local government, businesses, and the community at large, including Civil War interest groups, to the preferred alternative found in the EIS and the way that the entire public process has progressed. Indeed, many contend that the public process has been purposely subverted by those Park personnel leading the GMP and EIS process."

James V. Hansen, Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, to John Berry, Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management & Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior, supporting review of the Cyclorama Building as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park System Advisory Board, May 26, 2000 Link to text of letter

Thomas S. Hines, Professor History and Architecture, UCLA, and Neutra Scholar, Los Angeles, California, to the National Register of Historic Places, 27 March 1998 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"I am writing to endorse with enthusiasm the eligibility of Richard Neutra's Gettysburg Visitors Center for the National Register of Historic Places....Its bold, but uninsistent, abstractness, seems just the right approach for a structure on the edge of the sacred ground of the famous battlefield."
Ricardo Legorreta, Architect, AIA Gold Medalist, Legorreta + Legorreta, Mexico City, Mexico, to the National Register of Historic Places, 13 November 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"For all of us who admire Mr. Neutra's work this building represents one of the highlights of his brilliant career..."
Richard Longstreth, Society of Architectural Historians Appeal of NHL determination, to Fran Mainella, Director, NPS, 24 February 2004 "The failure of the National Park Service to recognize this building as a National Historic Landmark is without foundation. Furthermore, the loss of this building, which is scheduled for demolition in the foreseeable future, would constitute an impairment of the first order, in direct violation of the Park Service's stated mission..." Link to PDF Image of Letter page 1 | page 2
Reuben Rainey, Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia, to Christine Madrid French, 13 March 2003
"The most important reason to preserve Neutra's building is that it is a memorial to President Lincoln. To destroy one of the battlefield memorials is to tear apart its rich tapestry of commemoration, which has been woven by many generations. It would be an irresponsible act based on an inexcusable ignorance of the meaning of the building and its significance for present and future generations."
Terence Riley, Chief Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 23 March 1999 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"While I share the view of many of my colleagues regarding the significance of this public work by Neutra, I also find it ironic that the Park Service considers the building a desecration of hallowed ground which they would like to restore to its original character. Of course, such a proposition is virtually impossible, and their approach coupled with the proposed destruction of the Neutra building presents a disturbing distortion of twentieth century history as well."
Kevin Roche, Architect, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, Hamden, Connecticut, to the National Register of Historic Places, 17 October 2000 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"To think that [the Cyclorama Building] would be destroyed and returned to a field in the name of Historic Preservation is preposterous....Why is it that in a time when even the meanest and most derelict turn-of-the-century outhouse warrants consideration for historic preservation, a mid-century masterwork by one of America's leading architects can be destroyed to create a field? There are enough fields in Gettysburg. Let the building stand and continue to tell its glorious story."
Rev. Robert Schuller to President Bill Clinton, dated November 19, 1999, regarding preservation of the Cyclorama Building: Link to text of letter
"In the last two years Dion has watched the world famous Neutra Cyclorama Center at Gettysburg be sacrificed despite numerous nominations on National Registers and Lists. This building is considered among the most important buildings of the Mission 66 program in the country. Hundreds of preservation supporters have been writing letters to you and Hillary pleading to intercede with executive authority to change the course the National Park Service and your Interior Secretary have elected to follow."
Special: Read President Clinton's Response
Robert A.M. Stern, Architect, Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Trustee, National Trust for Historic Preservation, New York, New York, to the National Historic Landmarks Program, 15 December 1999 Link to PDF Image of Letter
"Neutra's work has been equaled perhaps only by that of Frank Lloyd Wright, his mentor and one-time employer, in its contribution toward elevating the status of American architecture on the world stage....Just as Wright's Guggenheim Museum echoes and reinterprets the Pantheon in Rome, so too does the Gettysburg Cyclorama, whose main interior space, using a cylindrical form to create a spatially impressive room, is also a modern-day Pantheon dedicated to the interpretation of one of the most significant events in our nation's history."

Graham F. Watts, MA (English), Researcher, Toronto Cyclorama, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My research into the Toronto Cyclorama Building has given me insight into the historical gap that was left behind after its demolition. The building is completely unknown to nearly every Toronto citizen and historian with whom I have spoken - even those who were alive when the Cyclorama Building stood at the heart of downtown Toronto. Only one or two history books mention it and almost no photographs of the building exist. It seems that the result of destroying the building itself has affected much more than the real estate; by destroying the building, a crucial link to Toronto’s past was irrevocably broken. However, there is a positive lesson that we can take from this loss. We have now gained the insight needed to preserve buildings such as the Toronto Cyclorama and the Gettysburg Cyclorama Center, to see beyond the present and to preserve architecture that connects us to our past. Link to text of letter.

Letter from the architect regarding preservation of the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina, once scheduled for demolition, now approved for National Historic Landmark status:
Romaldo Giurgola, Architect,
Sydney, Australia, to Carol Shull, National Register of Historic Places, 4 March 1997
Link to PDF Image of Letter
"I am sincerely saddened by the decision, acccording to the news, taken by the National Park Service to demolish the existing Visitor Center....the design reflected the particular period of American architecture of the early 60s in which the rigidity of modernism evolved into more articulated solutions integrating internal and external spaces. This single building has been recognized as at the forefront of that period and widely published....I believe that this building is worthy of preservation as a document of that moment of american architecture."


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