Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Swasey Observatory

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Institution Name: Denison University
Original/Historic Place Name: Swasey Observatory
Location on Campus: 300 South Ridge Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1909original construction Dyer, J. Milton
1969interior renovation and modernization
Designer: J. Milton Dyer (Cleveland, OH)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: limestone
Walls: marble
Roof: aluminum dome; Verigard (rubber) on flat portions
1909-present (2006)classrooms
1909-present (2006)observatory

The observatory was completed in 1909, built with Vermont white marble and supported by a limestone foundation. It housed a telescope, astronomy classrooms, and a darkroom for astrophotography. It is still used for those purposes and is a well-maintained building. The interior was renovated and modernized in 1969, and the dome was replaced. A 1980 renovation replaced the original 9 inch telescope and added an observation deck.

Funded by Denison trustee Ambrose Swasey, the observatory filled a growing need for better science facilities on campus. Science education was a focus at Denison, and in 1920 it was reported that among all U.S. colleges, Denison ranked second in the study of astronomy. The observatory is built in a functional style, along simple but elegant lines. The interior entry features a marble floor with a decorative bronze plaque. Founder of the Warner and Swasey Company, Ambrose Swasey also donated the original telescope and other equipment, including a high quality 9 inch Equatorial Telescope, and a 4 inch Transit and Zenith Telescope. Swasey Observatory remains a well-used building and an important part of campus history and mission.


Chessman, G. Wallace. Denison: The Story of an Ohio College. Granville, OH: Denison University, 1957.

Graham Gund Architects. Comprehensive Master Plan [Denison University]. [Cambridge, MA: Graham Gund Architects], November 1999.

Granville Ohio Historical Society and Museum. A Look at the Pictorial Past of the Village of Granville Ohio. [s.l.: s.n.], 1970.

King, Horace. Granville Massachusetts to Ohio. Granville, OH: Granville Sentinel Publishing, 1989.

Price, Matlack. "Denison University." Architectural Record 54, no. 4 (1923): 299-320.

Recchie, Nancy. Granville Historic District [Denison University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.


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Last update: November 2006