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The telescope and observatory was given to the college by Dr. Arch O'Donoghue in honor of his father, physician Dr. James H. O'Donoghue, who had graduated from the college when it was known as the University of the Northwest. Intended to support the studies of science students, the brick building consists of a two-story domed cylinder with an attached rectangular flat roofed two-stepped support room. The southern door is the main entry and has a large cement surround, unadorned except for the inscribed building name. At some point the original doors with porthole windows were replaced with solid metal doors.
At the time the observatory was dedicated it was the largest reflector telescope available for use in Iowa. Currently the telescope is not used, though the building is maintained.
Orwig, Timothy T. Morningside College: A Centennial History. Sioux City, IA: Morningside College Press, 1994.
Orwig, Timothy T. Morningside College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1997.