Friends of the Zeiss                                    

P.O. Box 1041                                                                   

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

Telephone: 412-561-7876

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Internet Web Site: < >


2004 November 30


The Honorable Edward G. Rendell, Governor

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

225 Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0062


Re: State Grant to be used to eliminate Buhl Planetarium Observatory


Dear Governor Rendell:


At the beginning of this month, another $1 million State grant was awarded to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.


Although much of this grant money will be used to renovate classroom space and add to the Museum’s endowment, I am concerned that part of this money will be used for a non-educational purpose: to build a Board Room for the Museum’s Board of Directors. Further, I have learned that the construction of this Board Room will eliminate the Astronomical Observatory of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in Pittsburgh.


From 1941 to 2002, this Astronomical Observatory housed a rather unique instrument, a 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope. While in operation, the world’s second largest Siderostat Telescope allowed families to view stars, planets, and the Moon from a heated Observing Room, while the telescope and “Siderostat” mirror remained in the unheated Telescope Room (to prevent disruption of the astronomical image).


This Observatory is the only space currently capable of allowing operation of this telescope, due to unique infrastructure needs of a Siderostat-type Telescope. In 2002, this telescope was dismantled and placed in storage in the warehouse of The Carnegie Science Center. The expectation had been that this telescope would resume operation on the roof of a renovated Science Center building.


However, last year The Carnegie Science Center cancelled their proposed $90 million expansion project. When retiring earlier this year, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh President Ellsworth Brown told a

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter: "The possibility of a high-profile expansion now at the science center is remote.”


 So, any expansion of The Carnegie Science Center, in the foreseeable future, would be small. Funding limitations and/or the lower height of a building addition would probably preclude the use of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope. And, this telescope cannot be mounted on the current Science Center roof, as the roof was not constructed to hold the weight of the telescope or the weight of more than a few people at one time!






The Honorable Edward G. Rendell                        2004 November 30                            Page 2 of 2




We understand that the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh does not currently have any interest in operating this telescope. However, changes to the current Observatory space, by conversion to a Board Room, could preclude any return of the telescope to the original Buhl Planetarium building.


A future Children’s Museum management may wish to reinstall the telescope for use. Or, if the Children’s Museum moves into a different building decades from now, there may be an interest in reinstalling the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope in the building.


And, due to the special infrastructure needs of a Siderostat-type Telescope, construction of a new facility to house this telescope may cost more money than anyone will want to pay. So, it may continue to languish, dismantled, in the Science Center warehouse indefinitely, perhaps forever!


On the second floor of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science is a beautiful wood-paneled Library and Board Room built in 1939 and completely funded by the Buhl Foundation. The Children’s Museum could use this Board Room, and even expand its size if necessary.


We would like you to ask the Board of Directors of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to reconsider conversion of Buhl Planetarium’s original Astronomical Observatory into a Board Room. Please ask them to consider the use of, or expansion of, Buhl Planetarium’s original wood-paneled Library/Board Room.


Friends of the Zeiss respectfully asks, and would appreciate, your kind consideration of this matter.


Sincerely yours,





Glenn A. Walsh

Project Director




Enclosures:           News Article: “Children's Museum receives another $1 million in state funds,”

                                                Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2004 November 10

                                2004 November 26 Letter to Board of Directors, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh


Copy:     Bob O’Connor, Governor’s Representative in Western Pennsylvania

                Members of Friends of the Zeiss