Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041

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

Telephone: 412-561-7876

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >

2002 November 26

The Honorable Tom Murphy, Mayor

City of Pittsburgh

516 City-County Building

414 Grant Street

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219-2459

Dear Mr. Mayor:

With the receipt last week of $8 million in State monies, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum now has the funding needed to rehabilitate and reuse The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Friends of the Zeiss has long sought the reuse of this historic City building. I personally conducted tours of the building for officials from both the School District of Pittsburgh and the Consortium of Italian-American Organizations, hoping one of these organizations could reuse the facility. I also had a very productive meeting with Dayton Baker, when the National Aviary considered using the building[they also would have used the planetarium projector to show the public how birds navigate by the stars!].

We are very concerned with the future of several historic pieces of equipment and artifacts that remain in the building. In particular, this includes the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector[now the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!], 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope[second largest of its unique type], Mercator's Projection Map of the World[world's largest when unveiled at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City], and local artist Nat Youngblood's "Rise of Steel Technology" Mural.

I know you have a sincere interest in Pittsburgh history. On Friday, I watched as you reactivated the historic Gimbel Brothers' Department Store Clock, after more than sixteen years of nonuse.

I was also very interested to read the article, in Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, regarding your model-making contributions to the Miniature Railroad and Village, now at The Carnegie Science Center. I see that, as a child, you took lessons from Charles Bowdish, the exhibit's creator.

I operated the Miniature Railroad and Village many times, when I worked at Buhl Planetarium. And, it was my suggestion that led to the rededication of the railroad gallery, as "Bowdish Hall" in November of 1983, in honor of Charles Bowdish. I met Mr. Bowdish during the rededication ceremony. I believe this was the last time he visited Buhl Planetarium.

The Friends of the Zeiss Internet web site includes a large page on the history of the Miniature Railroad and Village, including photographs of the display in earlier years and photographs of Mr. Bowdish[many of these photographs, thanks to Mike Orban]. You can look at this history web page at URL:

< >

As you may know, Friends of the Zeiss submitted a bid during the RFP process instituted by the Department of General Services in April. Of course, our new organization would have to raise funds to maintain the equipment and artifacts, as we propose. However, the fact is that no foundation would even consider giving us money for this endeavor, unless we had the full, public support from the City of Pittsburgh.

The Honorable Tom Murphy 2002 November 26 Page 2 of 4


We have received copies of three Memoranda of Understanding, between the City and The Carnegie Science Center, regarding the possible future status of the Zeiss Projector, Siderostat Telescope, and Mercator's Projection World Map. At the same time, we received the executed Lease Agreement, between the City and the Children's Museum, for the Buhl Planetarium building. We note that no lease agreements, for the three artifacts, were sent to us.

The RFP stated very clearly that leases for the three artifacts must be executed, and that "Complete and secured financing arrangements" must be demonstrated. Due to the Science Center’s failure to meet the financing RFP qualification, lease agreements with the Science Center cannot be executed. The impression that The Carnegie Science Center has a greater ability to implement their proposal, than does Friends of the Zeiss, is just not true!

The proposed dismantling and removal of these three artifacts greatly troubles us for several reasons:

1) Once removed from the Buhl Planetarium building, the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector will never again show the heavens to the public, a display with realism that is still unsurpassed by any other Pennsylvania projector! The newer computerized planetarium projectors have additional capabilities, but they cannot match the realism of the Zeiss sky. Although the Science Center proposes projecting a few stars from the projector onto a nearby projection screen, this would be an immense under utilization of this wonderful educational tool. Once removed from the building, Pittsburgh will never again have the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!

Further, it is unclear what would happen to the historic Westinghouse "Worm-Gear" Elevator where the Zeiss projector is mounted, as the Science Center has no interest in moving the elevator equipment. Buhl has the first planetarium in the world to be placed on an elevator!

2) Although the Science Center proposes reuse of the Siderostat Telescope and Mercator's Projection World Map, we highly doubt that their plans will come to fruition:

a) The Science Center's proposed expansion project, which has been in the planning stages for more than three years, was passed-over for State funding last week. This month, the Governor is using-up $130 million of the recently approved $250 million extension of the debt limit of the State's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

Yet, major state funding is still being requested for a new Pittsburgh arena, US Airways Maintenance Facility, and eventually, an expansion of Philadelphia's convention center. There is just not enough money available to include the requested 50 percent funding of the Science Center project, which is estimated to cost $62-90 million.

b) According to an article in Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review(copy of article enclosed), financial difficulties have led Carnegie Institute to dip into the earnings from the Andrew Carnegie endowment, to fund daily operations of the four Carnegie museums. This will raise serious questions, particularly with foundations, as to whether an expanded Science Center is financially feasible. This is particularly true now that the expansion of Dinosaur Hall, at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is committed.

Without the large Science Center expansion originally proposed, there will not be enough space to reassemble the historic equipment and artifacts, as proposed. If the historic equipment and artifacts are dismantled and placed in storage, they will never be reassembled!






The Honorable Tom Murphy 2002 November 26 Page 3 of 4


The Lease Agreement, between the City and the Children's Museum, for the Buhl Planetarium building, gives the City the right to control the location of the artifacts, so long as they are not in "an area that would conflict with Tenant's use of the Premises." This equipment can be stored without interfering with the Children's Museum's programming:

1) Zeiss II Planetarium Projector - The Zeiss Projector can be kept in the basement pit, allowing the Children's Museum to use the Theater of the Stars, as they wish. If necessary, the projector's control console can also be stored in the basement. If permitted by the Children's Museum, a window could be erected, on the lower level, that would allow the projector to be seen by the public in the basement pit.

Friends of the Zeiss would like to restore the projector, as funds become available, while it resides in the pit. Ten or twenty years from now, the Children's Museum, or another tenant, could then use the projector once again, as the Gimbel Brother's Clock is again serving the public today.

2) 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope - The third floor Observatory is a small and fairly unique space. The Observing Room[one-third of this space] is heated, but not air-conditioned. The Telescope Room[two-thirds of the space] is neither heated nor air-conditioned! This is such a small space, it would

not be cost-effective to provide heating and air-conditioning. This space could be used for storage[as it was when Buhl Planetarium was open] while the telescope remains.

Friends of the Zeiss would like to maintain the telescope. The Children's Museum would then have the option of using or not using the telescope.

3) Mercator's Projection Map of the World and Nat Youngblood's "Rise of Steel Technology" Mural -

These two educational murals could remain adjacent to their respective walls, out of the way. As this area of the building is slated to become a cafe, it would not conflict with any specific programming. And, children would continue benefiting from these two educational displays.

Friends of the Zeiss would like to have professionals evaluate the needs of these two displays and work to implement their recommendations. The Mercator's Projection World Map can be displayed with or without activation of the lighted seaports[these lights were left off for several years in the 1980s]. Hence, the seaport lights would not be activated for the public until they met all current electrical codes.

4) There are several smaller artifacts, such as the painting of Halley's Comet, which could be used by the Children's Museum or placed in storage. Friends of the Zeiss would like to keep track of these smaller artifacts for the City. We would work to restore these artifacts, as funding permits.

In consultation with legal counsel, it is clear that The Carnegie Science Center did not meet the specifications of the Department of General Services RFP, due to their lack of "Complete and secured financing arrangements." Hence, it would be a violation of law for the City to lease Buhl Planetarium artifacts to the Science Center.

We ask that the City of Pittsburgh use its legal rights, under the Buhl Planetarium Lease Agreement, to maintain the historic equipment and artifacts in the Buhl Planetarium building, as I described. The lease of the historic equipment and artifacts to the Science Center would be a violation of law, and it would relegate the artifacts into storage, as dismantled fragments, forever !!!

Simply mothballing the artifacts in the Buhl Planetarium building, taking up what is minimal space[the Zeiss Projector sits in a covered pit, which would be difficult to reuse for other purposes], is a small adaptation to make in order to resolve the conflict, for now, without any further legal fuss or public debate. There is no reason to leave the status of the Children’s Museum’s project in doubt, because of concerns over the legal custody of the artifacts, especially when the issue regards the City storing City-owned artifacts on City-owned property.


The Honorable Tom Murphy 2002 November 26 Page 4 of 4


The Children’s Museum is objecting to a small incursion into space leased from the City, which they are receiving for only one dollar per year! They fail to realize that the City has responsibilities for preserving the artifacts for future generations.

Whether restoring a historic building’s graceful clock, or preserving historic buildings in models[in addition to preservation of the actual building], it is in the interest of the City to preserve its heritage. We propose a small, cautious accommodation, so that the historic artifacts of Buhl Planetarium, like the Gimbel Brothers’ Clock and John Woods House Model, may someday have the chance to educate and delight the citizens of Pittsburgh, once again.

Sincerely yours,



Glenn A. Walsh

Project Director

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Enclosure: "Museums are burning through endowment earnings,"

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2002 November 24

Copy: Members of the Council of the City of Pittsburgh

Members of Friends of the Zeiss

News Media in Pittsburgh and Vicinity

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

Jacqueline R. Morrow, Solicitor, City of Pittsburgh

Yvonne S. Schlosberg, Assistant Solicitor, City of Pittsburgh

Representative Don Walko, Pennsylvania General Assembly

Senator Timothy F. Murphy, Pennsylvania General Assembly

Bryce McMinn, Legislative Assistant to Senator Timothy F. Murphy