Frequently asked questions and Guestbook

Is the Smith Observatory a fully functional observatory?

The observatory has been preserved. The telescopes are fully functional but observing is a now limited due to surrounding trees and houses. The most significant obstacle to actual research is its location in a residential neighbborhood. When it was built, its space was in a park-like setting with expansive views of the Castle Street area.

What was the observatory's state of condition in 1974?

The building had been boarded up for many decades. It was protected from vandalism by swarms of resident bees and a heavy growth of vines. The roof was leaking and some first floor sections had collapsed. Fortunately, the dome is constructed of galvanized steel and it protected the main telescope. The lens had been removed and stored safely at Hobart College. The initial work of preservation required foundation work, roof replacement , rot repair and paint.

Is the observatory open for tours?

Daytime tours are scheduled on selected weekends in the summer and are announced in the Finger Lakes Times.

Are there any recent developments in the observatory's history?

In 2008 the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner accepted the recommendation of the New York State Board for Historic Preservation to add the observatory and the Brooks House to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
As noted in its press release, "
Smith Observatory and Dr. William R. Brooks House, Geneva – built in 1888 and equipped with a 9.5" refracting telescope crafted by the Warner & Swasey Company of Ohio, it is a rare surviving example of a private, mid-size professional observatory." See the link.

In its 121st year, the observatory went on-line in Fall 2009.

What efforts among volunteers have helped restore the observatory?

Faculty and students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges have assisted in many ways. See this link.

What are some proposals for the observatory's future?

There is an extensive report regarding a study for relocation. (2007, 30 pages, PDF) See this link.

What links can provide more information about Geneva's history?

The Geneva Historical Society website.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Archives of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Archives See also the Wlliam Smith Biography in the libray's Archives

A negative plate from the Brooks collection on display in the library window.

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