Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Strawbridge Memorial Observatory

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Institution Name: Haverford College
Original/Historic Place Name: Observatory
Location on Campus: west of Walton Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1852-1853original construction Eyre, William
1932-1933renovation Mellor & Meigs
Designer: William Eyre; Mellor & Meigs
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: schist
Walls: schist, barn-dashed stucco
Roof: flat, paper, steel domes
1853-present (2006)observatory

Astronomy has always been taught at Haverford, and the observatory was built in 1838 to further that instruction. The construction of an observatory for the College was seen as a key element of the science program from its beginnings. The first observatory was a frame building built in 1838. This was replaced in 1852 by what was intended to be a state-of-the-art facility requiring a great deal of investment.

The purchase of the telescope was financed by subscription and was insured for as much as the building itself. In 1883, the building was doubled to accommodate a new 10 inch, refracting telescope. In 1932-1933, new steel doors were installed and extensive renovation undertaken under the direction of Mellor and Meigs, important regional architects who had designed the Hilles Building and who worked sympathetically with the earlier sections of the observatory buildings.

The observatory reminds the student to keep both feet on the ground and the eye in the sky, and to think beyond the tangible world and ourselves. Very much an active observatory, the Strawbridge Observatory is still used by the campus community and is one of a very few college observatories on the East Coast.


George E. Thomas Associates, Inc. Haverford College Historic Resources Campus Survey. Philadelphia: George E. Thomas Associates, 1999.
Kammerstein, Gregory, ed. The Spirit and the Intellect: Haverford College, 1833-1983. [Haverford, PA: Haverford College, 1983].

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


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Last update: November 2006