Friends of the Zeiss Statement Before the Board of the
Telephone: 412-561-7876 2005 March 2
Electronic Mail: < email@example.com >
Internet Web Site: < http://www.friendsofthezeiss.org >
Good afternoon, I am Glenn A.
Today’s hearing is to
determine that the nominated property, The Buhl Planetarium and
First, in general, consider these facts:
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.
Additionally, for more than 50 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 Buhl Planetarium’s main projector for more than 53 years, was the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world before being dismantled in October of 2002.
I present the following points in support of this eligibility, based on the Criteria for Designation in Section 1.4 of the Pittsburgh Historic Preservation Ordinance:
1) Criteria number 1: The site of The Buhl Planetarium and
2) Criteria number 2: Buhl Planetarium was built by the Buhl Foundation to be a living memorial to Henry Buhl, Jr., who co-founded what was once one of the city’s leading department stores, Boggs and Buhl. A very active amateur astronomer, Leo Scanlon, who developed the world’s first all-aluminum dome for his private astronomical observatory—a prototype for many future observatory domes, was instrumental in lobbying foundations and city government to have a planetarium built in Pittsburgh.
I might add that Space
Shuttle Astronaut Jay Apt, and very recent International Space Station
Astronaut Mike Fincke, have both declared that childhood visits to the original
Buhl Planetarium inspired them to become astronauts. In fact, I spoke with Mike
Fincke on February 17 after he had addressed a filled auditorium at
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Nomination of Buhl Planetarium as Historic Landmark 2005 March 2 Page 2 of 3
3) Criteria number 3: Influenced by the art deco architecture of that time, Buhl Planetarium was built by what Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation architectural historian Walter C. Kidney calls “a work in the compromise Classicism of the time that attempted to combine tradition and modernity.” Further, Buhl Planetarium was the first publicly-owned building in the city, and possibly the state, to be constructed with air-conditioning!
4) Criteria number 4: The building was
designed by one of the city’s leading architectural firms, Ingham and Boyd,
which is now known as IKM Incorporated; as Mr. Kidney mentioned last month,
Buhl Planetarium was their “masterpiece.” Further, the 72-foot diameter outer
dome was constructed by
5) Criteria number 5: The Buhl Foundation spared no expense in the
construction of The Buhl Planetarium and
The Theater of the Stars, the Buhl Planetarium chamber, was built with several innovations including the first use of an elevator to lower the planetarium projector below the Theater when not in use, the first permanent theatrical stage in a planetarium, and a special sound system for hearing-impaired Theater attendees—again, this was in 1939!
Before computers, and just as television was in its infancy, an astronomical observatory was designed for Buhl Planetarium, whereas the viewing public could remain in a heated observing room during cold weather—without the use of a television screen. This Sidereal Coelostat, or Siderostat-type, 10-inch refractor telescope was the first such telescope designed in a permanent installation for public use. It was also the second largest Siderostat-type telescope in use.
was the first publicly-owned building in the City, and possibly the State, to
be constructed with air-conditioning. In fact, air-conditioning was essential,
since the museum galleries and theaters were specifically built without
windows, to better control lighting, heating, and air-conditioning. And,
although Buhl Planetarium was built with a boiler room, boilers were never
installed. Arrangements were made with the City to share the heating plant of
the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, then just across
6) Criteria number 7: Buhl Planetarium
was constructed on the site of the former City Hall of the independent City of
7) Criteria number 9: The Buhl
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Nomination of Buhl Planetarium as Historic Landmark 2005 March 2 Page 3 of 3
As the third
largest corporate headquarters city in the country, until the merger-mania of
the 1980s, and with many of these companies having major Research &
Development labs in Pittsburgh, it was important that Pittsburgh have a
first-class facility to display new science and technological developments to
the public. Despite the perceived emphasis on Astronomy, throughout the
institution’s history, the R&D divisions of many Pittsburgh corporations
invested in quite a few exhibits and programs (particularly designed for the
education of high school students) for The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of
Popular Science, including (but, by no means, limited to) the annual Pittsburgh
Regional School Science and Engineering Fair.
In the case of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, not only did they provide many telecommunications exhibits for Buhl Planetarium, for a while they even funded a part-time staff person to explain these exhibits to the public! And, when Bell Telephone decided to introduce commercial Picture Phone service (real-time, video and voice telephone service; video was in black-and-white) in the early 1970s (and, they chose Pittsburgh and Chicago as the first two cities for this service unveiling), Bell Telephone provided Buhl Planetarium with two Picture Phone telephone booths, where the public could learn how to use this new technology!
8) Criteria number 10: The Buhl Planetarium and
For these reasons, I urge the Historic Review
Commission of Pittsburgh to enthusiastically recommend, to Pittsburgh City
Council, the designation of The Buhl Planetarium and
Attached to this statement are letters from two citizens, who could not attend today’s hearing, who also support the historic designation of Buhl Planetarium.