Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041                                                                   

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

Telephone: 412-561-7876

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >


                                                             NEWS RELEASE


For immediate release: 2005 July 11

For more information -- Glenn A. Walsh:

               Daytime: E-Mail < >

               Evening: Telephone 412-561-7876


                   Historic Designation of Buhl Planetarium

Subject of July 13 Public Hearing Before Pittsburgh City Council


Pittsburgh, July 11 – Pittsburgh City Council will hear from the public, regarding the historic value of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building in Allegheny Center, on Wednesday afternoon, July 13, beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EDST). Later in July, City Council will decide whether the Buhl Planetarium building meets the qualifications to be considered a City-Designated Historic Structure. On behalf of Friends of the Zeiss, the Buhl Planetarium building was nominated for historic designation by City resident Jon Wilson Smith at the beginning of the year.


The public hearing will take place in the City Council Chamber, on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, located at the corner of Grant Street and Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. Any citizen is welcome to testify at this public hearing. However, pre-registration is necessary to speak at the public hearing; citizens may pre-register by telephoning the City Clerk’s office at 412-255-2138.


All verbal statements at this hearing will be limited to no more than three minutes per person. Additional printed testimony, of any length, may be submitted at the time of the verbal testimony. For members of the public who cannot attend the hearing, they may send a short letter supporting the historic designation of Buhl Planetarium to this e-mail address: < >. All such letters will be submitted to City Council at the public hearing.


The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science opened in 1939 as the last major planetarium constructed before World War II, and the fifth Zeiss planetarium installation in America. The original Buhl Planetarium had several historic firsts:

Ø       First planetarium projector placed on an elevator, to increase flexibility in the Theater of the Stars;

Ø       First planetarium theater which included a permanent theatrical stage;

Ø       First planetarium theater (and, perhaps, first theater) to install a special sound system specifically for the hearing impaired—remember, this was in 1939 !;

Ø       First publicly-owned building in the City (and, possibly, the State) constructed with air-conditioning;

Ø       First permanent Siderostat Telescope specifically designed for public use;

Ø       First regional Science Fair for school students (from 26 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia) in the country started at Buhl Planetarium in the Spring of 1940. Only two state-wide science fairs are older than the annual Pittsburgh Regional School Science and Engineering Fair.



(More – Next Page)

News Release: City Council Hearing on Historic Nomination of Buhl Planetarium

                                                                        2005 July 11                           Page 2 of 2


Additionally, for more than 53 years, Buhl Planetarium housed an exhibit that was considered the largest Mercator’s Projection Map in the world! And, the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which operated as the primary educational instrument of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science for nearly 55 years, was the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world before being dismantled in October of 2002.


Designation as a City-Designated Historic Structure, which was first proposed in 1989 (Buhl Planetarium’s 50th anniversary), would mean that the Buhl Planetarium building cannot be demolished, or the exterior altered, without approval of the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh. The Old Allegheny Post Office and the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, both buildings beside Buhl Planetarium on the North Side, are already City-Designated Historic Structures.


Such designation does not protect the interior of the building, or furnishings, equipment, or artifacts in the building, nor does any law exist for their protection. Nor does designation require that the owner or lessee continue operations in the building. The Buhl Planetarium building is owned by the City of Pittsburgh and is currently leased by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.


In the Spring, both the Historic Review Commission and the City Planning Commission, unanimously, recommended that City Council approve Buhl Planetarium as a historic landmark. In February, both the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh also endorsed the historic designation proposal.


The public can read more about this historic nomination, including viewing the historic nomination application in its entirety, by going to either of these Internet web sites:


< >    or    < >


The public can obtain more information regarding the public hearing or the historic nomination by electronic mail:  < > or by telephone: 412-561-7876.


Gene Ricciardi, President of Pittsburgh City Council (who schedules all City Council hearings), chose the perfect day for a Buhl Planetarium hearing. Shortly after the hearing (at 3:51 p.m. EDST) America will return to space with the scheduled launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery!

Created in 2002, Friends of the Zeiss is a non-profit organization working to preserve the history and heritage of the building, equipment, and artifacts of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

--30 –


Glenn A. Walsh
  Electronic Mail - < >
  Internet, World Wide Web Sites -
  History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh:
  < >
  History of The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago:
  < >
  History of Astronomer and Optician John A. Brashear:
  < >
  History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries:
  < >
  The Duquesne Incline, historic cable car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < >