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Drake Municipal Observatory

Drake Municipal Observatory

4898 Observatory Rd, Des Moines (IA), 50311, United States

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(515) 271-3141

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About The Drake Municipal Observatory is dedicated to Daniel Walter Morehouse, Ph.D., astronomer and physicist of Drake University.
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Description The Drake Municipal Observatory is dedicated to Daniel Walter Morehouse, Ph.D., astronomer and physicist of Drake University - a tribute to his tireless efforts and eminent success in bringing to the people the beauty and dignity of astronomy. Visitors to the Drake Municipal Observatory are reminded the facility is also the burial site of Dr. Morehouse and his wife, Myrtle.

The observatory was made possible by the cooperation of the City of Des Moines and Drake University. The city furnished the ground (.23 acres) and the funds to build the observatory. The university furnished the scientific instruments, displays and staff.

Constructed in 1920-21, the building stands on the highest ground in the city of Des Moines. The architecture is classic of the severe Grecian type and the structure is “T” shaped in plan. Construction is load-bearing masonry with reinforced concrete floors and roof. The operable copper dome at the center of the building houses the main telescope. The exterior of the observatory is gray Bedford limestone.

Entrance to the Observatory

Elements around the doorway represent the contributions of the Chaldean, Persian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations to the science to which the building is dedicated. Notable features at the entrance related to astronomy include the sundial immediately south of the building, which leads the observer to reflect upon the importance of the sun to our planet.

The figures of the zodiac carved in limestone blocks around the entrance doors represent the twelve constellations identified by ancient astronomers of many civilizations and direct the mind to consider the relative position of the earth, sun and surrounding firmament. The winged disk above the main entrance was often placed over the entrances to building of ancient Egypt. Note the dates to the right and left of the winged globe. The 1920 date is from our current Christian Era calendar, while the date of J.E. 6633 represents the “Julian Era” which is used
  • 4898 Observatory Rd, Des Moines (IA), 50311, United States
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