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Science Beat: Historic Identity Noted

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The University of Michigan's 119-year-old astronomical observatory (Detroit Observatory) on E. Ann Street across from University Hospital has been placed on the national register of historie places. One must cohsider this most appropriate, because it was one of the first major observatories in the United States and has been the scène of some very important developments in astronomical research. Also, it was this observatory which first brought international recognition to the University, and served as the starting place for the U-M's giant scientific research endeavor. In a recent letter to U-M president Robben W. Fleming, Michigan Department of Natural Resources deputy director for recreation, Samuel A. Milstein, announced, "It is now a pleasure to inform you the Detroit Observatory was placed on the national register of historie places . Milstein goes on to say that "the state of Michigan is very proud of the fact the property is qualified for this designation. The national register records the story of a nation, and is a list of distinction identifying those properties by which present and future generations can sense the heartbeat of the United States." The designation carne about through the efforts of the Ann Arbor Historie District Commission, and a survey conducted by the commission in cooperation with The Ann Arbor News in which a clip-out historical preservation nomination blank was published in the paper on Oct. 3, 1971, for area citizens to fill out. p John R. Hathaway, commission chairman-emeritus, says the observatory carne in second in the voting by area people on the place they wanted most preserved as a historicalsite. ÊÊ The Kempf House at 312 ST División placed first, the Deke's Shant (Delta Kappa Epsilon) at 611 E. William placed third, and the main Ann Arbor Fire Station on Huron Street, fourth, among 18 sites and building "considered as priority items," he says. Hathaway says a commission resolution to seek registration of the U-M observatory was sent to each member of the Board of Regents, University officials and the DNR. "We will be trying to stir up community support for programs at the observatory i which are related to U-M scientific programs and the history of development of these programs," he says. Hathaway called it the place where "the U-M really broke through" the traditional college curriculum of the mid1800's to "set up a research program." Dr. Orren C. Mohler, U-M astronomy professor and former department chairman, points out that the part of the building placed on the historical register and completed in 1854, faces on E. Ann Street. The wing parallel to Observatory Street which houses the 37-inch telescope was added on between 1908 and 1911, he says_ ■TOër says the onginai meridian circle of the 12-inch telescope installed in the observatory more than 100 vears ago is süll intact, bul the original mounting and tube were replaced in tne 1920's. He says it is unfortunate the old telescope tube Sappeared in the 1940% and that the original dome has I heen modified. . , ., But the old part has aioi of interesting features and is Sistorically important froir. , n architectural standpoint with one of the first uses of cast irón bridging over the windows,"hesays. - ' The U-M astronomer says the building is "occasionally used by students who have Sf for the 12-inch réñgftg telescope," and that an oiiice and dark room are still maintained, although at present it is only occupied at nignt Thev building was the neadquarters of the U-M astronoy department until the j prejPnt 11-story, $3,2UU,uuu Phy'sics-Astronomy building was completed on E. Umversitv Avenue in 1963. - wnnaTTT-sTsürrgii: tant to U-M Vice President Wilbur K. Pierpont, says Straüon of the übservatory r.!...,hat- as far a,the federal government is concerned, the University eould not get federal funds for a project on the site before the proposal was reviewed in relation to historical preservation concerns." It would depend on review decisions whether or not such unds would be forthcoming, he says. Sturgis adds, however that "the preservation 1 pie are only concerned with the 1854 part of the building facing on Ann, and feel the other part of the observatory (the 1908 addition) detracts from the original structure " "We have no present plans to build anything there, bul the site was once considered for additional housing," he I Hathaway and Mohler point out that the observatory once provided accurate time for predecessors of the Pennsylvania Central Raüroad. Early drawings show a telegraph line running from the observatory to the depot to carry time signáis for the railroad and cities along the line to set their fincks and watehes by. The observatory as it appeared in 1855 was the subject of a painting by the 19th Century artist, Cropsey, and appears in the book, "Ann Arbor: The First Hundred Years," by Prof. 0. W. SteI nhenson. - ' U-M President Henry Philip Tappan's "greatest achievement . . . was an astronomical observatory, called the Detroit Observatory because the bulk of the money for it was raised in Detroit," Prof. Howard H. Peckham, director of the Clements Library, writes in his book, "The Making of the University of Michigan." "To the $15,000 contributed there (Detroit) the Regents added another $1,000. The small building with its great dome was erected on a hill northeast of the (Ann Arbor) campus, where it still stands. "The 13-inch telescope was ordered, and on a trip to Berlin in the summer of 1853 Tappan himself selected the transit and meridian circle. The observatory was soon regarded as one of the three best in the country, and represented the fulfillment of Judge Woodward's (Augustus B. Woodward, one of the founders of the U-M with Fr. Gabriel Richard and the Rev. John Monteith Mjecornmendation in 1817. "Tappan also met Francis Brunnow, PhD Berlin '43. and asked him to become director. The Germán scholar, the first PhD on the Michigan faculty, won an international name and married Tappan's daughter in 1856. His discoverjes we re chronicled in 'Asonomical Notes,' begun in . '58, the University's first s holarly journal," Peckham writes. ' The publication, "The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedie Survey," also published by the U-M Press, notes (Volume II), "Brunnow reached Ann Arbor in July 1854. That fall, as the Catalogue of 1854-55 announced, the observatory building was completed, the transit mounted, and the astronomer had begun his observations." It notes that "as early as March 1857 Cleveland Abbe wrote to every astronomer in the country, inquiring about I courses of stüdy ia.astronomy and praetice yith asfronotoical instruments, and was told to study in Ann Arbor if he could not go to one of the fai mous European universities,"