Construction on the Chamberlin Observatory, which is owned by the University of Denver, began in 1890 and the observatory first went into operation in 1894. Built with red sandstone block, it features a Romanesque central rotunda and a domed roof. It was designed by renowned Denver architect, Robert Roeschlaub and named after real estate magnate Humphrey B. Chamberlin who donated a significant amount of money to the construction of the observatory prior to his financial difficulties created by the Panic of 1893.
Backstory and Context
The observatory boasts an Alvan Clark-Saegmuller objective lens of 20 inches in diameter with a 26-foot focal length. The lens itself was purchased at a cost of $11,000 back in the late 19th century and is considered priceless today. Its initial use was overseen by the university’s first astronomy professor, Herbert Howe, who also worked on the design of the observatory. He was the first to open the observatory for a public viewing and went on to publish 28 astronomical papers and two textbooks.
The directorship of the observatory passed to Albert Recht in 1926 and he began the tradition of opening the observatory for regular public viewings. By the 1950s, reservations were required for Recht’s public viewings and are still recommended to this day. Operation of the observatory was given to the Denver Astronomical Society upon Recht’s death and under their stewardship the observatory was renovated in 2008 and the telescope was overhauled in 2010 and 2011.
The Chamberlin Observatory is still open for weekly and monthly public viewings, open houses, Dark Sky Weekends and classes conducted by the Denver Astronomical Society. Please call or visit their website for dates and times. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.