The abandoned Warner & Swasey Observatory, constructed by Worchester Warner and Ambrose Swasey as a gift for Case School of Applied Science, is located in East Cleveland, Ohio.y
Worchester Warner and Ambrose Swasey founded the Warner & Swasey Company in 1880 15 and manufactured telescopes and other precision tools. Warner and Swasey became trustees of the Case School of Applied Science and constructed an observatory for the school in East Cleveland as a gift. 1 13
Designed by the architectural firm Walker & Weeks, 1 the observatory was built between 1918 and 1920 12 at the cost of $87,000. 13 The original wing on the south end consisted of a copper dome atop a cylindrical brick tower for a 9½-inch refractor, which was relocated from the backyard of Warner and Swasey’s mansions on Euclid Avenue. 11 The new facility also included two four-inch transits, a zenith telescope, and two Riefler clocks. 8
The new observatory was dedicated at 2:30 p.m. on October 12, 1920. 8 Dr. W.W. Campbell, one of the most noted astronomers of the world and director of the Lick Observatory, gave the opening address.
In October 1940, 9 a new wing to the observatory was completed, which was outfitted with a library, lecture hall, 2 and a new 24-inch Burrell Schmidt telescope from Warner & Swasey 6 that was installed in the spring of 1941 9 at the cost of $127,000. 13
Light pollution from Cleveland began to impact the dark skies that initially attracted Warner and Swasey to East Cleveland. A new $200,000 observatory, Nassau Astronomical Station, was completed 30 miles to the east in Geauga County 7 on September 7, 1957. 11 The Burrell Schmidt telescope was relocated to the new facility. To compensate for the relocation, a 36-inch telescope was installed at the East Cleveland location. 2
An enlargement of the library and office space were completed in 1963. 13
In 1978, the Astronomy Department at Case Western Reserve University made a deal with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy to build a new observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. 2 The Burrell Schmidt telescope was moved from the Geauga County observatory was relocated in May 1979, 12 and the 36-inch reflector from the East Cleveland facility was moved to Nassau in 1980.
Public night lectures, which were open to the public, were relocated to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Murch Auditorium in 1979. 7
After the reflector was removed from the East Cleveland facility, the building was used for offices for Case Western. In 1982, the five remaining faculty members 7 who were stationed in the building were moved to the main campus of Case Western. 2 The structure was sold in 1983 to a partnership controlled by Alfred Quarles 13 for the television outfit, TBA, Inc. 10 12 for $130,000. 13
The abandoned observatory was sold at a foreclosure auction on September 6, 2005, to Nayyir Al Mahdi and his girlfriend, Stacey Stoutemire, for $115,000. 14 The couple had planned on restoring the building into a residence. 3 4 The plans were scrapped after the owner was convicted of mortgage fraud and sent to prison in 2007. 5
- Johannesen, Eric. “Institutional Planning.” A Cleveland Legacy: The Architecture of Walker and Weeks. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1998. 87-88. Print.
- Claspy, William. “History of the Warner and Swasey Observatory.” Warner and Swasey Observatory. Case Western Reserve University, 2006. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. Article.
- Elek, Tim, Matt Neff and Tony Solary. “The History….” The Warner & Swasey Observatory Restoration project, n.d.. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. Article.
- O’Malley, Michael. “Family’s New Focus: Turning Old Observatory Into Home.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 7 Sept. 2005: n.p. Print.
- O’Malley, Michael. “Nayyir Al Mahdi’s dream of turning observatory into home ended with indictment.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 28 Jan. 2008: n.p. Print.
- Nassau, J. J. “The Burrell telescope of the Warner and Swasey Observatory.” Astrophysical Journal 10.101 (1945): 275-79. Print.
- Widman, Richard C. “The Sky’s the limit here for astronomy buffs.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 26 Sept. 1980: 16. Print.
- “Case to Dedicate New Observatory.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 11 Oct. 1920: 10. Print.
- “Finish New Building for Case Observatory.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 20 Oct. 1940: 4. Print.
- Wager, Richard. “Window shopping in the heavens.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 14 Aug. 1983: 17D-21D. Print.
- Strang, Jim. “CWRU telescope being moved to Arizona site.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 16 May 1979: 28A. Print.
- Jordan, George E. “Now old observatory deals in TV stars.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 21 Oct. 1984: 26A. Print.
- O’Malley, Michael. “Trio taking the long view in bid to save observatory.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 27 Mar. 2005: A1. Print.
- O’Malley, Michael. “Family?s new focus: Turning historic observatory into home.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 7 Sept. 2005 B1. Print.
- The Warner & Swasey Company, 1880-1930. Cleveland: Warner & Swasey Company, 1930. Print.
5 CommentsAdd Yours →
[…] pollution eventually forced this historic observatory in Ohio to […]
I remember being there for one of those public nights when I was in Charles Mahlman’s astronomy class at Cleveland Heights High School in the 1977-78 school year. Very sad to see it now on this site.
I remember the Warner & Swasey Observatory being a fixture on Taylor Road hill. For many years from the early 1950’s into the 1960’s we drove by it to get to my parents home in South Euclid. Sad to see it abandoned and in the condition it is. Thank you for posting these pictures.
Thanks for such a thorough history of the post-1980 fate of this landmark. I was just there, and being alone and in my 60s, stopped short of trying to get up into the dome. Which room is depicted in the last photo (lower right)?
So sad. It is a metaphor for everything that has happened to Cleveland.