University of Pittsburgh History: March 1865

Issue Date: 
March 19, 2007

(an ongoing series highlighting University of Pittsburgh history)

March 1865—By an act of the Pennsylvania legislature, the Allegheny Observatory, together with a frame house and 10 acres of surrounding vacant land, is given at no cost to Pitt (then still called the Western University of Pennsylvania). The facility was built during the 1850s by a group of well-to-do astronomy enthusiasts on a hill atop what is today Pittsburgh’s North Side.

A second Allegheny Observatory—erected in 1912 on the same site, located eight miles from the Pittsburgh campus—continues to host pioneering astronomical research as well as educational activities for Pitt students and the general public. The observatory’s primary telescope, the 30” Thaw, is the third-largest refracting telescope in the United States.