In 1893, Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey have a small observatory constructed on the border between their Cleveland Properties. The telescope is created by their company, the Warner & Swasey Company, which dealt with machining and the creation of optical instruments, including telescopes. This structure would go on to become the rooftop telescope, and the 9.5” telescope which is still installed in it today is mounted.

1919 saw the beginning of the construction of the Warner & Swasey Observatory, a now-defunct building constructed at an elevated site in East Cleveland. It was designed by the firm of Walker & Weeks, two historical Cleveland architects. On October 12th, 1920, the observatory was presented to the Case Institute of Technology. This included the original observatory, plus auxiliary facilities including a dark room, for developing photographic plates after an exposure.

In 1939, further expansion of the observatory began. The primary addition was the 24” Schmidt-type telescope, also provided by Warner & Swasey, and a dome to house it. This was named the Burrell Telescope, in memory of the chief engineer of the Warner & Swasey Company. In addition to the telescope, the addition added lecture space, a library, and space for exhibits, among others. The library contained part of Case Institute’s astronomy collection, as well as faculty’s own personal works and several journal sets. These expansions finished in 1941.

Following this, a number of studies made use of data taken from the 24” Burrell Schmidt. During the mid to late 40s, J. J. Nassau published several papers analyzing the spectra of stars which were taken using a combination of the 24” telescope and objective prism. Starting in the late 40s, the telescope was used to analyze the structure of the Milky Way, by determining the positions of stars and dust clouds. Also starting at this time, and common into the 50s, was analysis of dim red stars, which was effective enough that a relation between luminosity and position in the galaxy could be observed.

By 1957, light pollution in Cleveland had reached the point that the Burrell-Schmidt was no longer usable. As such, it was moved 35 miles out of the city to the Nassau Station. There, it operated until 1979, when it was moved to Kitt Peak National Observatory, where it is still used for research purposes. Concurrently with the removal of the 24” telescope, a 36” reflector telescope was added, as well as spectrographic equipment for use with it. While the Warner & Swasey Observatory continues to be mentioned in papers after this point, it is typically mentioned that it is using data from Kitt Peak, likely due to the same light pollution that resulted in the removal of the 24” telescope.

Another addition to the original observatory completed in 1963. This extended office and lecture spaces, plus additional photographic plate storage.

1980 saw the beginning of the decline of the Warner & Swasey Observatory, when the 36” telescope is moved to the Nassau Station, taking the Burrell-Schmidt’s place.

In 1982, the astronomy department is moved out of Warner & Swasey and on to the Case Western Reserve University campus, and the 9.5” observatory is put into storage. In 1983, the building was sold to the cable company T.B.A..

The rooftop telescope was reinstalled at its current location, the roof of the A. W. Smith building, as the astronomy department was move into the building. This is when it received the title of the Rooftop Telescope.


Dedication of the Warner & Swasey Observatory, Warner’s speech, 1920

Dedication of the Warner & Swasey Observatory, Swasey’s speech, 1920

Dedication of the Nassau Astronomical Station, 1957

Research Done at the Warner & Swasey Observatory

While there are more papers than these which could be listed here, these should give a good sample of the type of research done at the Warner & Swasey Observatory while it was in use. These links direct to the ADS Abstract System.

Spectra of BD stars within 5° of the north pole. Nassau, J. J.; Seyfert, C. K. 1946

Luminosity Criteria from Objective-Prism Spectra for Stars from f0 to K5. Nassau, J. J.; van Albada, G. B. 1947

A study of M-type stars in Cygnus. Nassau, J. J.; van Albada, G. B. 1948

An investigation of galactic structure in a region of Cygnus. Annear, Paul 1949

The galactic structure in Camelopardalis. McCuskey, S. W. 1952

The ratio of early and late M stars in the galaxy. Wehlau, William H. 1954

The distribution of M stars in twenty-five clear areas of the Milky Way. Sanduleak, Nicholas 1957