Original Lease and
Customs Service Agreements
Regarding Buhl Planetarium
U.S. Customs Service and the City of Pittsburgh,
for Purchase of Zeiss II Planetarium Projector from Germany
Status of City Property
Related to Buhl Planetarium
Between the Buhl Foundation and the City of Pittsburgh,
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science
1937 July 20
The Buhl Foundation agreed to build a planetarium for Pittsburgh in 1937. A prominent site,
in the middle of the North Side's main business district[formerly, the main business district
of the City of Allegheny], easily accessible by 17 streetcar lines, was chosen. Prior to the
construction of the Buhl Planetarium building, the three-story Allegheny City Hall stood on
this site; this building, which was being used as the North Side police station in 1937[and,
was in deplorable condition], was demolished to make way for the Buhl Planetarium. This site
was located across Federal Street from the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny and Carnegie
Hall, caddy-corner to the North Side Market House, across West Ohio Street from the Diamond
Square[soon to become Ober Park], and across West Diamond Street from the Allegheny Post Office.
It was also located one block north of the Boggs and Buhl Department Store, where Henry Buhl, Jr.[whose
bequest created the Buhl Foundation], earned his fortune.
In 1937 a lease agreement was approved which allowed the Buhl Foundation to construct the
Buhl Planetarium on this parcel of City property. In this lease, the Buhl Foundation agreed
to donate and convey the building and all contents of the building[including the planetarium
projector, which was specifically mentioned in the lease] to the City of Pittsburgh, upon the
dedication of the building; the dedication occurred at 8:30 p.m.(EST) on Tuesday Evening,
October 24, 1939.
Buhl Foundation Lease Page One ***
Buhl Foundation Lease Page Two
Agreement between U.S. Customs Service and the City of Pittsburgh, for Purchase of Zeiss II Planetarium Projector from Germany
The Zeiss II Planetarium Projector was purchased for $130,000 by the Buhl Foundation, from the Carl Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany. Pittsburgh's projector was the last Zeiss II produced prior to World War II. This also meant that it was the very last Zeiss Model II produced, as the Jena factory was converted to making bombsights for German military aircraft, once war commenced(eventually, the Jena factory was bombed by the Allies).
It would not be until 1955 that another Zeiss planetarium projector(a newer model than Model II) would be produced. Interestingly, with the partition of Germany[Jena is located in what was the Democratic Republic of Germany(East Germany)] there came to be two Zeiss optical companies, which did merge after the fall of the Berlin Wall!
To expedite delivery of the Zeiss projector--AND to save money--the Council of the City of Pittsburgh approved a special resolution on Tuesday, August 23, 1938. This resolution authorized the City Administration to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Customs Service regarding the importation of the Zeiss projector. The U.S. Customs Service agreed to waive all import duties on the projector. In return, the City of Pittsburgh(which would eventually become the owner of the projector, even though it was originally purchased by the Buhl Foundation) agreed the projector would only be used for educational purposes, AND the City of Pittsburgh agreed "not to sell or transfer" the projector.
City Resolution Authorizing Customs Service Agreement --
Page One ***
Status of City of Pittsburgh Property
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science --
City of Pittsburgh Inventory of "Buhl Planetarium Assets"
2002 January 23