The University Record, November 21, 1995

Observatory to be restored, museum added

Restoration of the University's historic Detroit Observatory was approved by the Regents at their November meeting.

The Observatory Advisory Group, appointed by Homer A. Neal, vice president for research, will oversee the restoration of the Observatory building and its astronomical instruments, and the creation of a small museum, according to Executive Vice President Farris W. Womack.

"The Observatory, constructed in 1854 and named after its major donors from the city of Detroit, is the second oldest building on the campus and the oldest in its unaltered form," Womack noted. "It was the training ground for many of the most prominent astronomers of the 19th century.

"Today, it is the most significant mid-19th century observatory in America in its original form, with its original instruments still intact and operational. The Observatory is one of the most perfectly preserved scientific laboratories of its era, remaining virtually unchanged since 1854. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973."

A total of $2.9 million is needed for the restoration project ($1.4 million for restoration and $1.5 million endowment). The University will provide $1.4 million: $600,000 in FY96 for the restoration of the existing structure, creation of a small museum and restoration of the historic telescopes; and $800,000 in FY97 for a small addition containing a kitchenette, elevator, fire stairs and restrooms to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access requirements.

Womack noted that "a fund-raising campaign is under way to attract $1.5 million in contributions to provide an endowment that will fund a part-time docent/curator/building manager position and provide for the future maintenance of the Observatory in perpetuity."

Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor was named architect for the project.