Colossal Civil War painting gets a new home in Atlanta

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ATLANTA (AP) - An enormous panoramic painting depicting the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta was relocated to a modern exhibit hall Friday after workers loaded it onto a flatbed truck for the 9-mile trip to its new home.

Historians hailed the painstaking move as a milestone for the 6-ton Cyclorama - one of the world's largest paintings - which was moved to the Atlanta History Center from its longtime home in a building in the city's Grant Park.

The painting's vivid scenes of charging soldiers, rearing horses, battle flags and broken bodies stretch the length of a football field when it is fully unfurled.

Created by the American Panorama Co. in Milwaukee in the 1880s, the more than 15,000-square-foot painting is one of only two such panoramas on display in the nation. The other one is at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

"The Battle of Atlanta is one of the crucial moments in the campaign that really determined the outcome of the war," said Gordon Jones, a military historian and the history center's curator.

The Atlanta painting had long been housed in a corner of the city zoo, something of a historic oddity in a city whose modern persona is more entwined with civil rights than the Civil War.

To get the painting ready for the move, workers cut it at a seam into two pieces. Both pieces were then rolled onto the two gigantic, custom-built steel spools, each scroll taller than a four-story building.

Holes were carved in the concrete roof of the old Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum where it was housed for nearly a century and cranes then lifted the spools out.

The relocation effort began Thursday and workers completed the move to the new exhibit hall Friday night.

After a lengthy restoration process, the "Battle of Atlanta" is to go on display again next year in a new 23,000-square-foot building at the history center. A viewing platform rising 12 feet above the gallery floor will offer "the sense of being enveloped by the 360-degree experience," history center officials have said.

The exhibit will also include the "diorama" featuring 128 plaster figures that had been displayed in the foreground of the painting since the 1930s, they added.

Before the age of movies, the panoramas offered a 360-degree view of battles and other historic events, and their popularity gave rise to a lucrative business for painters. The American Panorama Co. hired many German immigrants to paint the giant scenes at the Milwaukee company.