Despite protests, petitions and lawsuits that have delayed the razing of the Gettysburg Cyclorama building, demolition of the local landmark's wing section started Friday.
Last week, more than a dozen people gathered in front of the Cyclorama to protest the National Park Service's decision to tear the building down.
Dion Neutra, who did not attend the Feb. 24 protest, had been fighting to keep the building for several years from his home in California. Neutra started an online petition to keep the building, and the petition had about 4,300 signatures as of Feb. 24.
Neutra is the son of Richard Neutra, who designed the building in the late 1950s.
The building housed the Cyclorama, a circular painting depicting Pickett's Charge, until 2008, when it was moved to the Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center.
Here's how the Gettysburg Cyclorama found its new home and how its old residence will soon be gone:
The Cyclorama building has been hailed by architects as one of the flagships of the "Mission 66" program, launched in the 1950s by President Dwight Eisenhower to modernize national parks.
The building was one of five visitor centers built through a $1 billion federal program. The structure opened in 1963, during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The building was considered one of the last remaining public structures designed by Richard Neutra, one of 20th century's most influential architects.
The round structure was built to house the massive 19th-century painting of Pickett's Charge by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. In 2003, a $13 million rehabilitation project was launched to restore the painting.
Calls for demolition
In 1999, the park service completed a long-term plan for the battlefield that called for removal of the building.
The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer and the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation approved the demolition.
But as the building's date with a wrecking ball neared, Dion Neutra and others appealed the demolition and a federal judge halted the plans, ruling that the park service had not adequately considered alternatives.
The park service was then directed to release an Environmental Impact Assessment, detailing three options for the future of the Cyclorama building and the environmental consequence of each. The options were mothballing, relocating or demolishing. All of the options were researched and reported in a 221-page document released in August 2012.
The public had 30 days to comment on the three options, and the majority of comments were in favor of the demolition, park officials said at the time.
Tearing down history
Dion Neutra has said that he would have liked to have seen the Cyclorama building repurposed into an Abraham Lincoln museum.
Richard Neutra's design for the Cyclorama was built around the idea of the Gettysburg Address, Dion Neutra said.
But according to an environmental assessment conducted for the site, transforming the building into something new would cost more than $21 million.
The demolition will cost $3.3 million.
On Friday, heavy machinery started to demolish the center by ripping away part of the administration wing. The demolition could take up to two months.
Park Supt. Bob Kirby said some site work will be done after the demolition, but most of that will happen after the 150th anniversary of the battle this summer.
Published reports in the York Daily Record/Sunday News and The (Hanover) Evening Sun were used in this story.