Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Morrison Observatory

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Institution Name: Central Methodist University
Original/Historic Place Name: Pritchett College Observatory
Location on Campus: 602 Park Rd.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1875original construction of equipment, dome, decorative porches, and building to house them) Unknown
1935relocation and original construction of current building Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete (residence)
Walls: brick
Roof: asphalt shingle (residence)
ca. 1875-present (2007)observatory

Significance: architecture, education
Landmark designation:
National RegisterCentral Methodist College Campus Historic District (1980)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Morrison Observatory is situated on seven acres of land bordering City of Fayette Park, .7 miles from the CMC campus. It was moved 14 miles to this site in 1935 from Glasgow, Missouri. The structure consists of the observatory rooms, a classroom, and a house for the director. The asymmetrical two story structure with a basement under the house portion is approximately 88 x 15 feet. The teaching areas contain a 20 x 36 foot lecture room and a 35 x 16 foot instrument room where the meridian circle, collimating telescopes, sidereal clock, and Clark Chronograph are housed. The second floor observatory room for the large telescope is a circle with a diameter of 22 feet set inside walls 24 feet square, while the telescope is mounted on a re-enforced concrete pier with a 14 inch base extending 10 feet below ground surface. The original 1875 sheet metal dome now rests on a circular concrete beam and is motor-driven with a revolving shutter. The building itself is constructed of brick in the stretcher bond pattern with a concrete foundation and corner quoins. The three porches feature decorative railings from the 1875 building in Glasgow. A plaque over the main entrance is from the original building, with an inscription reading, "Ad Astra. A.D. 1875." The building and instruments are in excellent condition. The telescope is one of the largest refracting telescopes of this type in use in this state. The Clark Chronograph is on loan with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D. C.

The designer for the dome and original building was a Cambridge, Mass. architect approved by the director of the Harvard Observatory. The dome and shutters are identical to the Harvard Observatory and were constructed in Mass. Equipment was made by Alvan Clark and Sons, Cambridgeport, Mass.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Central Methodist College Campus Master Plan. Central Methodist University, Fayette, MO.

McVicker, Maryellen H., Larry Dimond, June Thade, Bartlett Jones, and Sue Koch. Central Methodist College Campus Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.

Tucker, Frank C. Central Methodist College: One Hundred and Ten Years. Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1967.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library
Government Offices

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Last update: November 2006