A 15-year-battle over the fate of a modern structure at the heart of the historic Gettysburg battlefield is over.
The National Park Service today issued its decision to demolish the 50-year-old Cyclorama building, following the conclusion of an environmental assessment and a lengthy court fight.
Demolition could take place as early as next month following asbestos removal and the site will be then be restored to its 1863 appearance, said park service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon.
The building, designed by celebrated architect Richard Neutra, sits on Cemetery Ridge, where Union troops repelled Confederate forces during Pickett's Charge, on the third day of the epic battle.
The circular structure. which once held the massive Cyclorama painting depicting Pickett's charge. has long been reviled by Civil War fans and beloved by modern architecture preservationists.
The National Park Service began studying the possibility of removing the Cyclorama in 1997 and issued its first demolition decision in 1999.
A group of preservationists seeking to save the structure - which by virtue of its age and design is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places - won a court victory in March 2010, when the federal court in Washington, D.C. directed the NPS to undertake an environmental analysis on the demolition and to consider “non-demolition alternatives” - such as moving the structure or leaving part of it intact.
The park service did so and once again decided to demolish the building, Lawhon said.
"The site is a key portion of the Union battle line and is important to the public understanding of what happened here," said Lawhon. "The Cylcorama building was a disruption to that."
The private Gettysburg Foundation will cover the $3.8 million demolition cost.
The environmental assessment document will be available for public review at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/cycloramaea.
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