In 1896, the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University welcomed a substantial new addition — a wonderful observatory constructed, according to a college catalogue of the time, “…after the most approved modern ideas.”
The building was the idea of noted OWU Professor Hiram Mills Perkins, himself an institution and one of the foremost academic astronomers of this day. He was so esteemed as Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy that the building was soon referred to as Perkins Observatory.
Perkins taught at OWU from 1873 to 1907. You can read more about Perkins here.
The building at 231 West William Street in Delaware was designed by Canadian-born architect Sidney Rose Badgley, whose substantial body of work includes Slocum Hall, the then-OWU library and still a campus landmark. Funding also included a $200,000 donation, and it was built next to Perkins’ own house.
The telescope boasted a 9 ½ inch refracting lens, and was built by a leading manufacturer of such instruments, Warner & Swasey in Cleveland.
The original Perkins Observatory also included a classroom and office space. In the 1920s, a decision was made to construct the “new” Perkins Observatory between Delaware and Columbus, and over the years what became known as the “Student Observatory” fell into disrepair.
The building was rescued when a group of students in the 1980s organized to give it new life and purpose, also creating a student astronomical society.
The OWU Student Observatory is built of local brick with wide cut stone framing around the semicircular topped windows. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 18, 1985.