The University’s first observatory, located near the Mississippi River, was built in 1891 and housed a transit circle. The Transit House, as it came to be known, was joined in 1896 by a new, domed observatory, which housed a 10½″ refracting telescope built by Warner and Swasey. This telescope was used extensively in observations by Francis Leavenworth, one of the first astronomy professors at the University. The observatory was also used to instruct students and promote the field of astronomy to the general public.
In the 1930’s, new construction and electric lighting in the city of Minneapolis made use of the observatory increasingly difficult. To address this, the observatory and the refracting telescope were moved to the roof of the Physics Building on Northrop Mall (now known as John T. Tate Hall), which was in the process of being built at the time. The observatory remains there to this day, and is still used for outreach at our Public Observing Nights.