Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041

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

Telephone: 412-561-7876

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >


2003 February 10


The Honorable Governor Edward G. Rendell

Governor’s Office

225 Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0062


Re: Application for $8 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for the

       Pittsburgh Children’s Museum


Dear Mr. Governor:


                Last month, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh submitted three applications to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants, on behalf of the John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center ($9 million request for museum expansion), The Carnegie Museum of Natural History ($15 million request for museum expansion), and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum ($8 million request for museum expansion).


This letter refers only to the $8 million funding request of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. This money would be used to expand the Children’s Museum’s programming space into the historic Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.


                We do not object to this funding request, of the Children’s Museum, per se. Nor do we disagree with the use of the Buhl Planetarium building by the Children’s Museum; indeed, this could be a very appropriate use for this historic building. However, we do, respectfully, ask that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania make the RACP grant, to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, contingent on four conditions:


1) Buhl Planetarium's Theater of the Stars and Zeiss Pit cannot be altered in any which would prevent the return and use, at some future date, of the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector. This would include the retention of the historic Westinghouse "Worm-Gear" Elevator and the Zeiss Control Console.



The People's Observatory, on Buhl Planetarium's third floor, cannot be altered in any way which would prevent the return and use, at some future date, of the 

historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope.


3) A dedicated lighting system, on the ceiling of Buhl Planetarium's Great Hall, should be retained for return and display of " The Rise of Steel Technology" Mural by local artist Nat Youngblood.


4) A comprehensive inventory of all other City-owned artifacts, from the Buhl Planetarium, should be compiled, so that these other artifacts are not lost forever. The inventory previously compiled and included in the Children’s Museum Lease is not complete.


None of these conditions would seriously hinder the programming of the Children's Museum in the original Buhl Planetarium. Yet, these four conditions would assure that historic equipment and artifacts, important to the history of Pennsylvania, can some day be restored to use by the public.
The Honorable Governor Edward G. Rendell                        2003 February 10                               Page 2 of 4
                    The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, opened in 1939 on Pittsburgh’s Lower North Side, was the fifth major planetarium constructed in the Americas; the “Institute of Popular Science” was the third major American museum to specialize in the physical sciences. Until October, the Buhl Planetarium building included the sole-remaining operable Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which until its dismantling in October was the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world !!!
                    Until October, the building also included a rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, the second largest of its type; a giant Mercator’s Projection Map of the World [largest such map in the world, when first unveiled at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City]; “The Rise of Steel Technology” mural, by well-known local artist Nat Youngblood, and several smaller artifacts. Despite the continued educational value of these pieces of equipment and artifacts, the Children’s Museum has obtained permission from the City of Pittsburgh [which owns the site, building, equipment, and artifacts] to have them dismantled.

                Some years from now, the Children's Museum or another tenant may wish to reinstall the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, and "The Rise of Steel Technology" Mural by local artist Nat Youngblood, in the Buhl Planetarium building. This could be in response to a space mission to the Planet Mars, or discovery of a new comet, or, even the advance of business and commerce in Outer Space.


As the original Buhl Planetarium is today, they could do so for very little cost. This would be a great benefit to the Commonwealth, as it would reuse major publicly-owned artifacts for public education. And, Pennsylvania would, once again, have the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!


The Buhl Planetarium building was custom-constructed for the historic planetarium projector and telescope. Proposed alterations to this publicly-owned building could make reinstallation of this historic equipment cost-prohibitive. This would preclude reinstallation of the historic equipment and artifacts. Whether the historic Buhl Planetarium equipment is restored by The Carnegie Science Center, or by active volunteers as has been done with other historic telescopes and planetarium projectors here and elsewhere in the world, the utilization of this equipment is only possible if they can be installed in a proper facility; if not, this publicly-owned equipment would remain as dismantled artifacts in storage forever!

                    The Carnegie Science Center dismantled and removed the Zeiss Projector, Siderostat Telescope, and Mercator’s Projection World Map from the Buhl Planetarium building. They now sit in the Science Center warehouse where they will likely remain for many years—perhaps forever, if there is no place where they can be reassembled. “The Rise of Steel Technology” Mural was also dismantled and placed in storage elsewhere in the Buhl Planetarium building.
                    The Carnegie Science Center claims that the Zeiss Projector and Mercator’s Projection World Map will be reassembled in a new “Final Frontier” exhibit, to open at the Science Center in 2005. The Carnegie Science Center management has publicly stated that the Zeiss Projector would not be used for planetarium shows in the Science Center; indeed, the current Science Center planetarium is too small for use of the Zeiss Projector.
                    If the Zeiss Projector were to be displayed only in a Science Center exhibit, the projector would never again provide, for public view, the superb Zeiss star and planet images, even if the projector bulbs are activated and some star-like images are projected on a nearby projection screen. The newer, computerized planetarium projectors, such as the Science Center’s Digistar II, may have advanced features the Zeiss Projector does not have. However, the star-field images of the Zeiss II Projector are unsurpassed in quality by any other projector in the Commonwealth!
The Honorable Governor Edward G. Rendell                        2003 February 10                               Page 3 of 4
                    We seriously doubt that the “Final Frontier” exhibit will be completed by 2005. In fact, it is likely that this exhibit will not be displayed until an expansion of the Science Center building is constructed.
                    The price tag for the “Final Frontier” exhibit is $3 million; the Science Center has raised very little of this amount, as of now. Further, if this exhibit is constructed as planned outside of the Science Center planetarium entrance, it will restrict space for the Science Center’s second floor traveling exhibits gallery.
                    Traveling exhibits are crucial to the Science Center’s revenue stream, as they assure both new and return business. It is highly unlikely that the Science Center will reduce the space for traveling exhibits, just to display the Zeiss Projector and other artifacts.
                    The proposed expansion of The Carnegie Science Center has been discussed for several years. The price tag for this proposed expansion is between $62 million and $90 million. Please note that the original Carnegie Science Center opened in 1991 at a cost of $40 million [and, $17 million of this amount was provided by the Commonwealth!].
                    A few years ago, the Pennsylvania General Assembly did authorize the expenditure of up to $45 million of State capital funds for the proposed Science Center project. However, when doling out capital funds for various projects in November, former Governor Mark Schweiker did not propose the use of any State funds for this project!
                    To our knowledge, the Science Center has raised no private funds for this project. Considering the current economic conditions in this nation, it seems unlikely that $62-90 million can be raised anytime in the foreseeable future.
                    Further, reassembly and reuse of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, as proposed by the Science Center, cannot occur without expansion of the Science Center building. The roof of the current Science Center building is not strong enough for erection of a new observatory for this telescope.
                    The four conditions we propose would not seriously hinder the programming of the Children’s Museum. Indeed, Children’s Museum Executive Director Jane Werner admitted, in a story published in April in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that retention of the Zeiss Projector in the Buhl Planetarium’s basement Zeiss Pit [an option that was proposed by Friends of the Zeiss and considered by Pittsburgh City Council] would not interfere with the Children’s Museum’s plans. Yet, the Children’s Museum preferred that the artifacts be removed; Pittsburgh City Council approved this request.
                    We have attempted to explain to Pittsburgh City Council the importance, to Pittsburgh-area history, of maintaining the building in such a way that the historic equipment and artifacts could some day be returned and used. City Council has ignored our pleas, which we find very short-sighted.
                    The building, equipment, and artifacts of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science are an important part of the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We certainly understand that development must continue for the Commonwealth to effectively compete in the world market place today. However, we do not agree that such development needs to preclude the future reinstallation and reuse of very historic equipment and artifacts.
The Honorable Governor Edward G. Rendell                        2003 February 10                               Page 4 of 4
                    Indeed, the future reinstallation and reuse of such historic equipment and artifacts could give the Commonwealth a competitive edge that no other state or region can replicate. The one major advantage that Pennsylvania has is our valuable infrastructure.  Cities in the “sunbelt” cannot replicate the wonderful built environment Pennsylvania has, provided by philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and foundations such as the Buhl Foundation.
                    We, respectfully, request that strong consideration be given to our request, to ensure the history of Pennsylvania can, some day in the future, be easily and inexpensively displayed and utilized for the benefit of future Pennsylvanians.
                    We would be happy to discuss this request with you or someone you delegate to represent you in this matter. We would also be pleased to provide whatever additional information about this issue, or about Buhl Planetarium, that you require. Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.


Sincerely yours,



Glenn A. Walsh

Project Director

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Enclosures:           Friends of the Zeiss Organizational Information: Mission Statement; Steering Committee

                                Statements before Pittsburgh City Council: 2003 Jan. 28 & Feb. 4

Photographs of the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor

Telescope, Mercator’s Projection Map of the World, and “The Rise of Steel Technology” Mural by local artist Nat Youngblood.


Copy:                     Richard Dreher, Program Manager, Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program,

                                                Office of the Budget, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

                                Senator Jim Ferlo, Pennsylvania General Assembly

                                Representative Don Walko, Pennsylvania General Assembly

Members of the Council of the City of Pittsburgh

                                Members of Friends of the Zeiss

                                News Media in Pennsylvania

                                Tom Murphy, Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

                                Dale A. Perrett, Director, City of Pittsburgh Department of General Services

                                Chester J. Malesky, Assistant Director, City of Pittsburgh Dept. of General Services

                                Jacqueline R. Morrow, Solicitor, City of Pittsburgh

                                Yvonne S. Schlosberg, Assistant Solicitor, City of Pittsburgh

                                Tom Flaherty, City Controller, City of Pittsburgh

                                Congressman Timothy F. Murphy, United States Congress

                                Bryce McMinn, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Timothy F. Murphy