“She thinks she missed the train to Mars… she’s out back counting stars….”
“Stars” – HUM (1995)
Hiding in amongst the trees at the top of the Taylor Road hill in East Cleveland– The abandoned Warner and Swasey Observatory, just four miles southeast of its original parent home, the then, Case School of Applied Science (Case-Western Reserve University.)
The Observatory was designed in 1918 by the Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks and The Warner & Swasey Company completed construction of the building in 1920. On October 12th of that year, world renowned astronomer Dr. W. W. Campbell, the Director of the University of California Lick Observatory, gave the key note address at the observatory’s dedication.
The building included a small library, a darkroom, a transit room, an office and one bedroom. The observatory also housed two Riefler astronomical regulator clocks, two four-inch transits, and an extremely sensitive zenith 9.5-inch refractor telescope, built by the Warner and Swasey Company of Cleveland. The entire Observatory, including all equipment, as well as the cost of construction of the physical structure, was donated to the Case Institute of Technology by Trustees Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, of the Warner and Swasey Company.
As the need for expansion of facilities and new equipment became evident, additions to the Observatory were graciously provided by Warner and Swasey. In 1940, the building of en entire new wing to the Observatory was completed. Included in this expansion was a new library, a teaching lecture hall, and a new Warner & Swasey Company-manufactured 24-inch Burrell Schmidt telescope, housed in a new dome (pictured below.)
By the 1950’s, city-light evening sky “noise” made it necessary for Case to develop a new facility and relocate the housed telescopes and other equipment, in order for the school to maintain the highest levels of scientific integrity. The new facility– the Nassau Astronomical Station, was built in 1957 on 281 acres of land in Montville Township in Geauga County, thirty miles to the east of the Warner and Swasey Observatory. The Burrell Schmidt telescope was transferred to this site, and was replaced with a 36-inch telescope that was used primarily for viewing by the public. In 1980, The Warner and Swasey Observatory was closed permanently, and the original zenith telescope was transferred to the Euclid Avenue main campus of Case-Western Reserve University, where today it is housed and in-use in the University’s Albert W. Smith Building.
The old observatory was sold and has changed ownership hands a few different times since Case managed the facility, and although every attempt has been made to board-up entrance points inside… graffiti artists, area gangs, historians, photographers and urban explorers have all found their way to the interior of the building. Picture number 20, from the top, of the photos I have taken and posted here– the empty window frame– was my magic doorway into the fascinating storied past of the Warner and Swasey Observatory that still stands at the top of a hill in East Cleveland.
Above photos taken July 3, 2015
- History of CWRU Astronomy and the Warner and Swasey Observatory
- My Ramification Photography post on the Warner and Swasey Factory on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland, where all of the telescopes in this story were manufactured.