County Road 33
North of Tiffin, Ohio
Located about five miles North of Tiffin, Ohio on the grounds of Camp Hertzer, stands the Ballreich Observatory. In September 1984, thanks to the efforts of Doyle Ballreich, a Tiffin resident and president of the Ballreich Potato Chip Company, the observatory became home to the telescope for which it was constructed – the 12.5-inch Emerson McMillin refracting telescope. Built in 1895 by Warner and Swasey, Cleveland, with optics by John A. Brashear of Pittsburgh, the telescope was originally put into operation at Ohio State University, at the Emerson McMillin Observatory, and was the largest telescope in the state of Ohio. The telescope was used for research and instruction by the university. As a condition of the original donation of funds, from McMillin to construct the telescope and observatory, use of the telescope was to be offered to the public. In honor of McMillin’s request, the university made the telescope available twice, monthly to the general public until 1962.
On July 5, 1976 four members of the Astronomical Society began a three-week operation to remove the telescope from the observatory and relocate it to the Union Carbide plant in Fostoria. It took seven months to restore the telescope to operating condition. Nine years passed as the telescope sat unused, as the issue of “location” for a new observatory was debated. Union Carbide engineer Charles Clark discussed the possibility of relocating the telescope to Camp Hertzer with Doyle Ballreich. Ballreich set in motion a chain of events to transfer ownership of the telescope to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, acquire land for an observatory from the Tiffin Rangers, and approach the Fostoria Astronomical Society to accept the task of operating the observatory in conjunction with the college staff.
Members of the Sandusky Valley Amateur Astronomy Club (SVAC) continued the tradition of providing to the public an opportunity to see the wonders of our solar system and beyond. The club, however, has become inactive. The observatory and telescope are the property of the Tiffin Rangers and Heidelberg University respectively.
We learned in October 2017 that the SVAC is no longer active and no public observatory viewings are being offered. The observatory is closed. Late in 2022 sale of the McMillin Telescope was approved by its owners, the instrument to be removed, refurbished, and used at a new out-of-state location.
Photos by James Guilford.