Western Reserve Academy
College Street Hudson, Ohio
Thomas Vince, Archivist and Historian
Originally named the Hudson Observatory, the now Loomis Observatory is the oldest astronomical observatory in the U.S. (The Cincinnati Observatory Center is the oldest operating observatory in the country.) Housed in the squat three-room brick building on a private school campus is the observatory’s original main telescope, a four-inch refractor built by London, England’s Troughton and Simms. The building also features a transit observatory with its original instrument still firmly bolted to its pier.
A third telescope, built by J.W. Fecker of Cleveland, in 1923, stands on a wooden tripod in the observatory’s office. The facility is no longer used for observing but a plaque at the door reads, “Elias Loomis and Charles Agustus Young worked in this observatory, built in 1838, the third to be erected in the United States and the second oldest now standing (1926).” Loomis was a prominent astronomer in the 19th century and, as a condition of his coming to Hudson to teach at the then Western Reserve College, the observatory was built to his design. Loomis taught and observed in Hudson from 1837 to 1844, making and publishing meteorological and magnetic observations and determined the Observatory’s latitude and longitude. The Western Reserve Academy has a second observatory on campus.
The Frost Observatory, built in 1981, is a two-story block and metal structure. An observing platform is covered by a tip-off roof assembly when not in use. It houses a 14-inch orange-tube Celestron SCT mounted to a sturdy pier that is sunken into the earth. Beneath the observing floor is a tiny warmup room. The Loomis Observatory is open to the public on rare occasions including the annual Treasures of the Western Reserve Academy tour which takes place in the autumn. Groups may make special arrangements for a visit. The Frost Observatory is open for public observing on an infrequent schedule.
Photos by James Guilford