The Draper Cottage was the home of John William Draper, who made the first photograph of the moon, thereby launching the field of astrophotography. His son, Henry, was also an acclaimed photographer, and followed in the path set by his father by working in the field of astrophotography. The younger Draper built an observatory at the estate of his father, which today houses the Hastings Historical Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • John William Draper house
    John William Draper house
  • John William Draper's photograph of the moon
    John William Draper's photograph of the moon
  • Henry Draper
    Henry Draper

In the mid-1800s, when photography was still a brand new field, John William Draper became a pioneer in the field by photographing the moon. It was the first detailed photograph of the moon and Draper's work launched the field of astrophotography. He took the pioneering photograph in the winter of 1839-1840.

Draper moved to the Hastings estate in 1847, and within a few years, his second son, Henry, then in his early teens, was assisting his father. In time, Henry Draper  became renowned in his own right as a doctor and amateur astronomer. Like his father, he also became a pioneering figure in the field of astrophotography.

In the late 1850s, Henry Draper became inspired to build an observatory following a trip to Ireland and a visit to an observatory there. He believed that the highest point on his father's Hastings estate would be an ideal location for an observatory. The observatory was completed in 1860.

In the late 1860s and 1870s, Henry Draper added a second dome to the observatory as well as a series of new and more powerful telescopes. He continued his work in astrophotography and his observatory was so highly regarded that virtually every well-known astronomer and physicist of the day visited it at some point.

The village of Hastings acquired the cottage and observatory in 1990. Since that time, the observatory has housed the Hastings Historical Society.

History of the Observatory Cottage. Hastings Historical Society. Accessed December 17, 2017.