The Lamont-Hussey Observatory
Naval Hill, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Concise History and Current Research
Page compiled by ASSA Bloemfontein Centre
Lamont-Hussey Observatory & Fire
Station Museum Photo Gallery
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and archives
Recent discoveries
and news
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Photo gallery
and sketches
The Observatory and the Theatre
The telescopes and equipment

The surroundings

Latest discoveries
The Fire Station Museum
and contact details
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  • The Lamont-Hussey Observatory (1928 - 1974) and Observatory Theatre (1974 - today)
Above: 1) The construction of the Dome in late 1927 (The Friend Newspaper 12-12-1927). 2) Construction completed 1928 (Credit: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan). 3) The Observatory Theatre today SE view (Gerrit Penning) 4) The Observatory today SW view - front entrance (Wendy Stone). Second line images: 4 photos taken in April 2005 by Gerrit Penning at sunset, using different digital settings for the same subject.  
  • The Telescopes and Equipment used - operational day
Above: 1 & 2) The huge 27 inch Lamont-Refractor telescope set up in Ann Arbor, Michigan (USA) for testing in the mid 1920's prior to shipping to South Africa (The Friends newspaper, 1926-07-14). 3) The 27 inch Lamont-Refractor in its operational life on Naval Hill (1965 - Dept. of Astronomy,
University of Michigan (photographer unknown).

  • The surrounding area and City of Bloemfontein today

1 - Large 850 kb photo

2 - Large 810 kb photo

<-- Click for large aerial photos  




Above: 1 - Complete view of Naval Hill, with the Observatory in the Centre of the picture. The communications tower is visible at the other side of the hill.
2 - View of the Observatory and the area on the hill it is situated on. 3 - A close-up view of photo 2.
4& 5 -
Aerial views of Naval Hil, Bloemfontein. The Observatory Theater is visible on the Hill to the left. (Wynand Nel) 6 - Naval Hill encompasses the Franklin Nature Reserve where there are giraffe, buck, wildebeest and a variety of birds. 7 - Free State Summerclouds from the Hill. (Gerrit Penning)
  • The Telescope and Equipment today - discoveries after the closure of the observatory
The 27 inch Lamont Refractor
Caption: The tubes of the telescope lay outside an aircraft hangar at the Erlichpark Fire Station in Bloemfontein for many years. It was dumped there after the observatory closed in the mid-1970's for they did not know what else to do with it. It will never form an operational telescope again, but makes fine museum exhibits. It was carried into the hangar in late 2002 and early 2003.

The 27 inch Lamont-Refractor could be detached into two pieces for easier transport - this is how they are currently lying in the Museum (6.5 meters in lenght each - they weigh tons upon tons! 2) The object in the background is the counterweight - the wheel did not belong to the telescope. 3) The mounting of the telescope. 4) The 27 inch's lens - in safe-keeping in Michigan. (credits: 1-3 Alfred Jenkinson, 4 - Patrick Seitzer)
The Mars cameras and Rossiter plaque
1 2

4 (text coming in future)
Above: 1-2) - March 2002 - A major find in 2002 for the Lamont-Hussey researchers: the recovery of two astrophotographical cameras. These two cameras were used by Earl Slipher, world famous astronomer, when he visited Lamont-Hussey on Naval Hill from Lowell Observatory in the 1950's. Some of the best pictures of Mars were taken by these instruments. These were found in a store, behind the elephant's compound in the City Zoo! (Photos: ASSA Bloemfontein Centre)

3-4) - 2002 - An accidental discovery was the much anticipated recovery of the Rossiter Plaque - once attached to the telescope. A municipal worker gave it to one of the Friends of Lamont-Hussey quite by chance. On the back is a wonderful description of the person and life of Dr. Rossiter - first director of the Observatory.
The 6 inch Clark Clock drive and parts; books discovered at Boyden
Above: 1-3) - January 2004 - Again a major discovery almost by accident! These images represent the latest find in Bloemfontein regarding Lamont-Hussey parts - the long lost 6 inch Clark Refractor which was set-up in the 1880's in Michigan and shipped with the 27 inch to South Africa in the 1920's. Only parts of the telescope's driving mechanisms was found; the whereabouts of the lens and the tube of the 6 inch remains mystery to this day...

4) - December 2002 - Books discovered at Boyden Observatory which once belonged to the Lamont-Hussey Observatory before it closed. The books were probably given to Boyden for safe-keeping in the 1970's. (All credits: ASSA Bloemfontein History group)
  • The Fire Station Museum where the components are currently kept
Above: 1& 2) The Erlichpark Fire Station compound - museum hangar visible in the back where historical fire engines are kept as well as the massive 27 inch Lamont-refractor parts. 3) Roomed building on the compound containing additional fire items on display. (ASSA Bloemfontein History group) 4) Example of one of the Fire Engines surrounding the telescope parts. (Credit: Jaco Oelofse)