3.8
4 votes

Warner and Swasey Observatory

Taylor Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44112 USA

  • Independent
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“abandoned astronomical observatory”

This place is on private property. Listing for informational purposes only. Please do not visit without express permission from the land owner. The Warner and Swasey Observatory is the astronomical observatory of Case Western Reserve University. Named after Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, who built it at the beginning of the 20th century, it was initially located on Taylor Road in East Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The observatory, which at that time housed a 9.5-inch (24 cm) refractor, was donated in 1919 to the Case School of Applied Science. The newer 24-inch (61 cm) Burrell Schmidt telescope was built in 1939. The astronomical history of Case Western Reserve University can be traced back along two paths, reflecting the contributions of the Case Institute of Technology and the Western Reserve College, which became federated in 1967 to form Case Western Reserve University. The first collegiate observatory west of the Appalachians -- and the second-oldest observatory in the United States -- was built by Western Reserve College in 1837. The observatory was led at that time by the eminent astronomer Elias Loomis, who studied not only astronomy, but also meteorology, mathematics, and natural sciences. The Warner and Swasey Observatory itself had its beginning before the foundation of the Case School of Applied Science, when its founder, Leonard Case, Jr., met John Stockwell, a self-educated astronomer. The two collaborated in a number of theoretical investigations concerning the motion of the moon. When the college was organized shortly after the death of Leonard Case, John Stockwell became its first Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy. Research and instruction in astronomy began in the year 1881. About that time, two astronomical enthusiasts, Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, moved their machine tool firm to Cleveland and began their distinguished careers in the manufacture of precision instruments and large telescopes.  They took a great interest in Case School of Applied Science; and when, after some years, they became trustees of the college, it was natural for them to take an interest in improving the astronomical equipment of the college. They encouraged Charles S. Howe, the second professor of astronomy and later president, in his work on the determination of fundamental star positions with the almuncantar. In 1919, they gave this telescope to Case together with an observatory which they built and equipped with two astronomical transits, a zenith telescope, two Riefler clocks, two chronographs, and other auxiliary instruments. The original building also included a small library, a transit room, a darkroom, bedroom and office. The observatory was located on an elevated site 270 feet above Lake Erie, on Taylor Road, in East Cleveland, some four miles east of the campus of Case Institute and the present University. Thus was founded the Warner and Swasey Observatory to further basic instruction and research in astronomy. It was dedicated on October 12, 1920 in ceremonies at which Dr. W. W. Campbell, then Director of the Lick Observatory, was the principal speaker. In the fall of 1982, the staff, library and other facilities of the astronomy department of Case Western Reserve University which had been housed in the Warner and Swasey Observatory building on Taylor Road in East Cleveland, were moved to the fourth floor of the Smith Building on the CWRU campus. With the relocation of the Burrell Schmidt to Kitt Peak and the move of the 36 inch reflector to the Nassau Astronomical Station, no further observational work was being done on Taylor Road- hence the move. However, the term Warner and Swasey Observatory continues to serve to identify the CWRU Department of Astronomy and to perpetuate the memory of those farsighted individuals who were so instrumental in the development of observational astronomy in the United States. Photo by Dan Grossman 

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Reviewed by
Dan Yocum

  • 7 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
September 23, 2014
Rated 1.0

Yikes! The neighborhood to the north scared my wife. Had I known we wouldn't have visited this abandoned observatory. The copper roof has been completely stripped, so it's just a matter of time before the place succumbs to the elements.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Dan Yocum

  • 7 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
September 07, 2014
Rated 1.0

May years ago, I worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory and have done some observing using the Burrell Schmidt as well as its sister telescope, the Curtiss Schmidt at CTIO in La Serena, Chile. I had forgotten that the Burrell had started its life in Cleveland.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
dylanacop

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
December 22, 2016
Rated 5.0

An absolutely incredible sight to see. Building looks small but is much bigger once you're on the inside. It is completely open, you can walk right in, I had no problems during my visit at all. A few police officers pulled up right as we did because they wanted to see it too! And the residents across the street took no notice to us either. Some absolutely beautiful graffiti work done, especially in the upper dome. Regardless of the time of day, I recommend a few flashlights if you're planning on visiting.

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Reviewed by
meggatron5000

  • 10 Reviews
  • 14 Helpful
August 25, 2015
Rated 4.0

I didn't find the neighborhood scary at all. Maybe that's because I'm from Chicago.. I don't know. The observatory was beautiful though. I really enjoyed our visit in 2013. I'd found some photos online of the inside but when my friend and I saw it, it had recently been boarded up, inside and out. The domes were pretty dilapidated, so I can't imagine it's very safe to be in there anyway. We were surprised to find it across the street from residential homes. No one seemed to notice us, though. It's a gorgeous building and the history is fascinating. I'm very grateful for Roadtrippers... I'd never have found this place without it!

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Reviewed by
Alexis Ziemski

  • 12 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
February 22, 2015
Rated 5.0

It's in a what most would call a "scary neighborhood", but I've never had a problem here. Visited it a few times. Only ran into other people interested in documenting the building. The place is huge, and you can currently walk right up to it.

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Warner and Swasey Observatory

Taylor Road
Cleveland, Ohio
44112 USA

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
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