Window to stars honored
Observatory is national landmark

Monday, May 18, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Observatory was recognized as a national historic landmark Sunday.
(Steve Shaffer photo)
| ZOOM |

The spy glass out on the hill
Is now entirely finished
And the distance twixt us and the moon
Is sensibly diminished.

Celebrating the opening of the Cincinnati Observatory, a poet penned his thoughts in the Enquirer in the early 1840s.

Sunday, 300 people celebrated the 155-year-old observatory's history and cheered its future as supporters unveiled a plaque designating it a national historic landmark.

"This is a defining moment as we embark upon the rebirth of the Cincinnati Observatory," said Dale McGirr, vice president for finance at the University of Cincinnati, which owns the site.

The Mount Lookout observatory will be restored as "The Birthplace of American Astronomy," a museum where stargazers can learn astronomy's history through displays, a research library, and telescopes and other equipment.

President John Quincy Adams laid the cornerstone at the observatory's original site on Mount Adams in 1843. In 1873, the observatory moved to Mount Lookout to escape the city's growing smog.

It houses the nation's oldest telescope still in public use. Supporters on Sunday used that wood-and-brass instrument to view a solar prominence, or eruption on the sun.

They also heard organizers' plans for the facilities, which include planting gardens and instituting an astronomy summer camp next year.

Organizers also aim to partner with Cincinnati Public Schools to train teachers in teaching astronomy and with CPS, Kent State University and a planetarium in Perth, Australia, to study Australian skies, which are dark during Cincinnati's school hours.

Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls delivered the written well wishes of U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, the oldest living astronaut. Ms. Qualls also proclaimed Sunday Cincinnati Observatory Day. Observatory planners hope to raise more than $2.7 million -- $700,000 to restore and repair buildings, $40,000 forcomputers and other equipment and $2 million for maintenance needs.

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