Physics & Astronomy Building


The Detroit Observatory



The Observatory was made possible by the generosity of several citizens of Detroit who responded to President Tappan’s request for funds. The Observatory was located on four acres of high land outside the Ann Arbor city limits and overlooking the Huron River. It was furnished with excellent instruments, among them an astronomical clock and meridian circle, purchased by Tappan in 1853 in Germany. A residence for the Director was added at the west end in 1868, and was enlarged in 1905. In 1908, a large building was added at the east end and included a large reflecting telescope.

Director’s Residence
Addition with Reflecting Telescope



In 1963, the Physics & Astronomy Building on East University Avenue was completed, and the Department of Astronomy vacated its offices, classrooms, and telescopes on the site that had been dedicated to astronomy for one hundred years, and moved into the new high rise building on East University Avenue. By 1963 the department’s astronomical observation was performed mostly at observatories remote from the campus; indeed, many research observations were being made from space vehicles in orbits around the Earth. Orren C. Mohler (The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, p. 224)


Demolition of the Observatory East Addition & Reflective Telescope

Physics & Astronomy Buildings