Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Goodsell Observatory

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Institution Name: Carleton College
Original/Historic Place Name: Goodsell Observatory
Location on Campus: 301 Goodsell Circle
Date(s) of Construction:
1887original construction Stevens, J. Walter
Designer: J. Walter Stevens
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Romanesque revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: sandstone
Walls: brick
Roof: slate, metal
ca. 1886-present (2006)observatory
ca. 1886-present (2006)faculty offices
ca. 1886-present (2006)classroom

Built in 1887, the Goodsell Observatory is a 19th century astronomical laboratory located on the western border of the Carleton College campus. The building was given to Carleton by James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad, and is one of the few surviving buildings of its kind in the country. It was originally built to house a German-built meridian circle, a specially-designed telescope for measuring the time of the meridian passage, and was the source of daily time signals sent to may railroads and cities across the United States. The building currently houses a 16.2-inch Brashear Refracting Telescope and an 8.25-inch Clark Refracting Telescope. In 1891 the observatory was named for Charles M. Goodsell, a founder of the college.


Carleton College Database (2006). Carleton College Facilities, Management and Planning Office. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow. Carleton: The First Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1966.

Goodsell Observatory, Carleton College. Inventory report. St. Paul, MN: State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, [n.d.] .

Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton Moves Confidently Into Its Second Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1992.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Educator, Idealist, Humanitarian, Donald J. Cowling. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. In Search of Fulfillment: Episodes in the Life of D. Blake Steward. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing Company, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Private Liberal Arts Colleges in Minnesota: Their History and Contributions. Saint Paul, MN: Historical Society, 1973.

Jarchow, Merrill E., and David H. Porter. Carleton Remembered 1909-1986. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

Leonard, Delvan L. The History of Carleton College. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1904.

Lutz, Thomas, and Ruthmary Penick. Goodsell Observatory (New Observatory) [Carleton College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Pearson, Marjorie, and Charlene K. Roise, Carleton College Campus: An Historical Survey. Minneapolis, MN: Hess, Roise and Company, 2001.

Soth, Lauren. Architecture at Carleton: A Brief History and Guide. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.


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Last update: November 2006