Cyclorama

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 to make way for the Union Commerce Building in 1924.

Images

Audio

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...
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