In 1892, Dudley Observatory director Benjamin Boss took stock of the observatory’s position in the field of astronomy and found it wanting. Dudley was had fallen behind the times, with no equipment to do spectroscope work and no telescope capable of doing photo-astronomy.
Worse, the position of the Dudley made fixing these problems difficult. The first Dudley observatory was too close to four tracks of the New York Central railway, and the vibrations would throw off the careful calibration of any instrument the observatory used.
So Boss negotiated with the city for a land swap. He gave up the site of the first observatory, with its hordes of goats, and traded it in for a site to on the grounds of the Albany Alms House. The Alms House provided minimal housing and work for the indigent in Albany, and the rest of the grounds provided the farm land to sustain it, plus a cemetery.
(Thanks to Hoxsie for the image.)
Above you can see the Dudley Observatory, placed within the distinctive triangle of what are now South Lake, Myrtle and New Scotland Avenues. The Alms House Hospital has been replaced by the Albany Medical College, and the Alms House itself has been replaced by the Albany College of Pharmacy and Albany Law School.
The second building is Dudley’s most famous, and it was one of the most iconic buildings in Albany at the time. It showed up in postcards and maps of the era.
The second building is Dudley’s most famous, and it was one of the most iconic buildings in Albany at the time. It showed up in postcards and maps of the era. It was an imposing Romanesque structure of red brick, two stories tall with an observatory tower at the western end. To the east was the residence of the director and temporary housing for visiting astronomers. In the center were the rooms for the computers, the library and the rooms for the resident astronomers.
This time the patroness for the Observatory was Catherine Wolf Bruce, daughter of the industrialist George Bruce, who helped fund many great observatories around this time. In the end she would donated $35,000 to the move and the construction of the new building.
The second Dudley Observatory burned down in May of 1970, as you can see in this photo from the Times Union Collection. It was already empty. Dudley had soldthe building to Albany Medical Center and moved out in the mid-1960s. All the equipment, including the Pruyn Telescope, was packed away in a warehouse, so it was undamaged. The gutted building was torn down and replaced by the Capital District Psychiatric Center.
The third home of Dudley Observatory was a simple office building at 100 Fuller Road in Albany, where scientists and engineers worked under Curtis Hemenway on a number of projects for NASA, most notably on micrometeorite research. And the current home is, of course, here at miSci. Hopefully we’ll be staying awhile.