Friends of the Zeiss                         Statement Before the Board of the

P.O. Box 1041                                                     Historic Review Commission of

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

Telephone: 412-561-7876                                                      2005 April 6

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >


Good afternoon, I am Glenn A. Walsh of 633 Royce Avenue, Mount Lebanon, Project Director of Friends of the Zeiss. The nomination before you today, to designate the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science as a City-Designated Historic Structure, has been entered by lifelong City resident Jon Wilson Smith, on behalf of Friends of the Zeiss. I prepared the application, which is available for public inspection, in its entirety, on the web sites of Friends of the Zeiss < > or the History of Buhl Planetarium < >


Today’s hearing is to determine that the nominated property, The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, is eligible to be approved as a City-Designated Historic Structure.


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;

Ø       First regional Science Fair for school students 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.


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.


The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was the first permanent museum in Western Pennsylvania, and in fact the first permanent museum within 250 miles of Pittsburgh, specifically designed to display the latest in science and technology to the public.


What I have just described is incredibly important history, not only for Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania, but for the planetarium and science museum professions. And, this history all occurred right here in Pittsburgh!


Yet, as technology marches on, and so-called “progress” has resulted in a new Science Center building and an expanded Children’s Museum, the memory of this important history is quickly fading. This is particularly true as Buhl Planetarium alumni move away or pass-on.


The official designation of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science as a City-Designated Historic Structure, by the City of Pittsburgh, would serve to ensure that residents of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania remember this important history and heritage, and protect the beautiful building where it all happened!



Nomination of Buhl Planetarium as Historic Landmark            2005 April 6         Page 2 of 2



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 Institute of Popular Science as a City-Designated Historic Structure.

Attached to this statement is another letter, from a citizen who could not attend today’s hearing, who also supports the historic designation of Buhl Planetarium.

Thank you.