Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Farewell to the Old Museum

The information booth at the former visitor center for Gettysburg National Military Park is today a scattered mess of papers and brochures. Crews from Maryland-based Interior Specialists began working recently in preparation for the old museum s demolition, which officials expect will begin in the next three to four weeks. (Evening Sun Photo by James Robinson )

Some of you may have read my post the other day concerning the removal of the old park visitor center. Below is a recent article regarding the demolition of the site:

Old Gettysburg Visitor Center in its last days

But the Cyclorama building, also scheduled for demolition, will remain until the park settles a federal lawsuit with a preservation group hoping to save it.
The Evening Sun

In hallways where thousands of schoolchildren and tourists once crowded together, the exhaled breath of a lone visitor now hangs visible in the cold, empty air. The heat was long ago turned off at Gettysburg National Military Park's former museum and visitor center, which, with a pending fate of demolition, is merely a shell of its former self. Today, the place is an eerie mess, full of empty shelves, scattered papers and outdated brochures.

Forgotten coffee mugs and an empty vending machine linger in the break room. Old lockers and mailboxes left behind still bear the names of park employees. A poster left hanging on an upstairs wall advertises the 2008 opening of the new museum and visitor center on Baltimore Pike.

The new center opened last April, but there is unfinished business at the former museum on Taneytown Road. Recently, crews began the process of inspecting, and ultimately, demolishing the 88-year-old building.

Within a month, workers will begin to demolish the center piece by piece, said Gettysburg Foundation spokeswoman Dru Neil. The Gettysburg Foundation, the park's private partner that operates the new museum, is paying a Maryland-based company, Interior Specialists, $800,000 to demolish both the former visitor center and, eventually, the Cyclorama building.

But the fate of the Cyclorama building, which once housed the 360-degree Cyclorama painting of Pickett's Charge, depends on the outcome of a federal lawsuit that pits the park against a preservation group that hopes to save the structure. Neil said that demolition project will wait until the lawsuit is settled.

In the meantime, though, demolition is a certain fate for the former museum.

As for how long it will take, Neil said that has yet to be determined. But the contractor expects to begin dismantling the building in the next three to four weeks, she said. The demolition project is one part of a plan that dates back nearly a decade to restore the 6,000 acres of Gettysburg battlefield within the park's boundary to its appearance in 1863.

For years, the park has proceeded with that plan by removing trees from places where they didn't exist at the time of the battle, when Civil War soldiers fought on open land. Telephone poles and utility lines have been relocated underground so as not to impede on a history student's perspective.

Next on the list for rehabilitation is the area where the former visitor center, Cyclorama building and parking lots are located. The 43.5 acres of land, known as Ziegler's Grove, was key to the fighting on the battle's third day. In addition to the demolition, the Ziegler's Grove project calls for the underground relocation of 6,700 feet of power lines and a rehabilitation of the landscape as it once was.

The total cost of the project is estimated at more than $9.5 million, but the Gettysburg Foundation has committed $7 million from fundraising efforts. The remaining $2.5 million, park officials hope, will be allocated by Congress from federal funds. With so many factors, Neil said it is tough to say when the project will be completed - or even when officials hope it will be.

In fact, much of the planning phase is on hold until the buildings are demolished and officials can get a good look at the land left behind, she said. "This is so early on in the project that we still don't have a timeline or anything yet," Neil said. "This is very, very, very step one."
Fencing now surrounds the former Gettysburg National Military Park museum and visitor center on Taneytown Road. Crews are expected to begin demolition in the next three to four weeks. (Evening Sun Photo by James Robinson )

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