Filed Under Entertainment

The Cyclorama

An Immersive Spectacle of the Pre-Film Era

In 1890, you would have encountered a large circular room called the Cyclorama tucked away off the lobby of the Lennox Building, located on the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Erie Street (now East 9th). In the nineteenth century, cycloramas were popular mass entertainment in the era before film. Viewers would stand in the center of a cylindrical room, often on an elevated platform, surrounded by a panoramic painting of a scene. A cyclorama's canvas ranged anywhere from 25 to 50 feet in height and about 382 feet long. Lights would focus on parts of the scene as actors gave dramatic narrations of the story.

Americans showed only mild interest in this form of entertainment until "The Battle of Gettysburg" cyclorama opened on October 22, 1883, in Chicago. Construction on the Cleveland Cyclorama began in April 1886 after cycloramas of Civil War battles proved to be hugely popular in Chicago, New York, Boston, and other large cities. Eager to cash in on the financial success, Cleveland capitalists put forth the twenty thousand dollars necessary to build the Cyclorama and employ artists to paint the enormous panoramic canvases.

On November 6, 1886, the Cleveland Cyclorama opened with "The Battle of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain." Not all of the cyclorama shows in Cleveland were of Civil War battles, however. In August 1890, management went a different direction and began showing "Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion."

In the mid-1890s the public began to lose interest in the Cyclorama. "The Battle of Gettysburg" was the last of the shows featured at Cleveland's Cyclorama before its doors were permanently closed on January 3, 1895. A year later, the Cyclorama space was used for a bicycle-riding school. The Lennox Building was later torn down in 1921 and replaced in 1924 by the Union Trust Building.


Clip from Battle of Atlanta Soundtrack The Battle of Atlanta: Sound Track of the Atlanta Cyclorama from Habersham Records is an example of the kind of sound that one would have heard while visiting the Cleveland Cyclorama. The narration, music, and sounds of combat would have complemented the Cyclorama's Civil War painting to tell the story of the battle.


Gettysburg Cyclorama
Gettysburg Cyclorama Here is a portion of "The Battle of Gettysburg" Cyclorama. The details of the painting gave viewers a sense of being on the battlefield. Creator: Desiree N. Williams
Painting the Cyclorama
Painting the Cyclorama This photograph is of Paul Philippoteaux painting the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Philippoteaux was a professional cyclorama artist. In order to paint the Battle of Gettysburg, he visited the battlefield site and used eyewitness accounts. Source: Gettysburg National Military Park
Cyclorama Footprint
Cyclorama Footprint A map Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1896 shows the footprint of the Cyclorama. However, by the time this map was drawn the Cyclorama was being used as a bicycle-riding school. Source: Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970, ProQuest, LLC Date: 1896
The Cyclorama Building, 1889
The Cyclorama Building, 1889 The Cyclorama was housed inside what later became known as the Lennox Building, which stood on the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Erie Street (later renamed East 9th). The Cyclorama was removed long before the building was demolished to build the Union Trust Co. Building, now called the 925 Building. Source: A. Witteman, Cleveland: Photographs in Black (New York: Albertype Co., 1889) Date: 1889
Cyclorama Interior (Buffalo)
Cyclorama Interior (Buffalo) The interior of the Cleveland Cyclorama would have looked much the same without a canvas as the one located in Buffalo, New York. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C.
Cyclorama Exterior (Buffalo)
Cyclorama Exterior (Buffalo) Cyclorama buildings could be easily identified by their distinct circular shape. This cyclorama located in Buffalo, New York is an excellent representation of what Cleveland's Cyclorama would have looked like in 1890. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C.


917 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115 | Demolished


Heidi Fearing, “The Cyclorama,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 23, 2024,