Warner & Swasey Observatory

Worchester R Warner and Ambrose Swasey, owners of Warner & Swasey Company which made precision instruments and telescopes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, built the observatory as a gift to the Case School of Applied Science. Dedicated in 1920, it was built on Taylor Road four miles east of the university campus, the building was a single-domed structure that housed a 9.5-inch refractor which was constructed in 1894 by Warner and Swasey for their own use.

In subsequent years, the building was expanded to house more telescopes and instruments, such as the 24-inch Burrell Schmidt telescope which was built in 1939, as well as an astronomical library and public lecture hall. Many important contributions to astronomical research were made around this time, such as the work of the director at the time, Jason Nassau, on the classification of carbon stars and M-type stars in 1949.

Due to the increasing growth of Cleveland and the light pollution that came with it, a new site was constructed 30 miles away known today as the Nassau Station, and the Burrell Schmidt telescope was moved to this location. To compensate for the loss of the Burrell Schmidt as well as the light pollution, a 36-inch telescope was installed at the Taylor Road observatory.

In 1978, the Astronomy Department of Case Western Reserve University made a deal with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy to construct a new observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona to house the Burrell Schmidt. The telescope was moved from Nassau Station to Arizona, and in 1980 the 36-inch reflector on Taylor Road was moved to the Nassau Station. As a result, all faculty and resources were moved to the main campus in 1982 and the Taylor Road observatory was never used again for astronomical work.

The Taylor Road observatory was sold in 1983 and then abandoned. It remained vacant and neglected real estate mogul Nayyir Al Mahdi who planned on renovating the building into a
luxury home. Unfortunately, the renovation plans never materialized when in 2007, he was convicted of mortgage fraud and sent to prison for two years. He was one of 61 defendants in the case who had a total of 269 counts that involved forgery and theft offenses, telecommunications fraud, mortgage fraud, and falsified appraisals.

The observatory nows sits in an extremely neglected state, covered in overgrowth and graffiti. The Nassau Station’s 36-inch reflecting telescope was one of the first telescopes capable of remote viewing, but it was largely left unused until it was sold in 2008 and reopened as part of the Geauga Park District. The original 9.5-inch refractor is currently housed on the main campus of Case Western Reserve University where it is used on a regular basis by both students and faculty. The Burrell Schmidt is still housed at Kitt Peak National Observatory and continues to be a huge asset in new discoveries.

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