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Abandoned Warner and Swasey Observatory in Ohio, USA

Petar Djajkovski

Named after the astronomers that built it, Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, this observatory has contributed to many important astronomical discoveries and observations.

It was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century by the Warner & Swasey Company, who made precision instruments and telescopes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

They were trustees of the Case Institute of Technology in East Cleveland, which provided them with the land and funds to build the observatory.

Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Main entrance of the Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Main entrance of the Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Later, when increasing light pollution from Cleveland began to hinder the center’s capacity to make observations of the night sky, the original Taylor Road observatory was gifted to the Institute.

A new facility was constructed some 30 miles (48km) to the east in a place known today as Nassau Station. The Burrell Schmidt telescope from the old facility was moved to Nassau Station. To compensate for the removal of the Burrell Schmidt telescope, a new 36-inch telescope was bought for the original Warner and Swasey Observatory.

In the following years, the building expanded to house several more instruments and telescopes, served as a public lecture hall, and was converted to house an astronomical library.

View of the neglected Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

View of the neglected Warner & Swasey Observatory. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

 

The Burrell Schmidt telescope at the Warner and Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Author: Tom.Reding CC BY-SA 3.0

The Burrell Schmidt telescope at the Warner and Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Author: Tom.Reding CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1987, the Astronomy Department of Case Western Reserve University made plans to construct another new observatory to be the home for the great Burrel Schmidt telescope, and it was once again moved. The second telescope was moved once again to replace it.

This meant an end to the astronomical research at the Taylor Road facility and the transfer of all the building’s resources to the main campus of the university. The original Warner and Swasey Observatory was sold in 1983 but was abandoned the same year and remained neglected until 2005.

It was then purchased by a couple who planned to renovate it and convert it into a home. The plans started well but soon stalled when the new owners were convicted of fraud and sent to prison in 2007. The observatory was partially restored but has been left empty since then.

Full view of the facility with its two domes. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Full view of the facility with its two domes. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

 

In honor of Worcester R. Warner “By his wife and daughter for the extension of knowledge and the service of those who as did he, gain delight and inspiration from the unfolding mysteries of the skies”. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

In honor of Worcester R. Warner “By his wife and daughter for the extension of knowledge and the service of those who as did he, gain delight and inspiration from the unfolding mysteries of the skies”. Author: Mark Souther CC BY-SA 2.0

Among the Warner and Swasey Observatory’s important contributions to science are the classification of carbon and M-type stars in 1949, the discovery of the galaxy Andromeda VIII, and the image of the intracluster light in the Virgo Supercluster.