05.11.10

Honoring the 75th Anniversary of Griffith Observatory

CONGRESSMAN ADAM B. SCHIFF
OF CALIFORNIA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

In 1896, Griffith J. Griffith donated 3,015 acres to the City of Los Angeles for Griffith Park and several years later in December of 1912, he offered funding for a public observatory to the Los Angeles City Council. When Mr. Griffith died in 1919, he left funds for construction of the Observatory and the Greek Theatre in his will. The groundbreaking for the new Observatory building occurred in June of 1920, and in 1934, the Astronomers Monument was dedicated.

The formal dedication of Griffith Observatory was on May 14, 1935, and it opened to the public the next day. Soon afterward, the Observatory began its school field trip program, which ran continuously until 2001 and brought millions of students to the Observatory.

The Observatory has played a crucial role in our nation's history--whether during the 1940s, when military pilots trained in the planetarium theater to learn to navigate by the stars and the 121st Coast Artillery members were garrisoned at the Observatory, or in the hundreds of motion pictures filmed at the Observatory, including The Phantom Empire, Rebel Without a Cause, and Jurassic Park.

The 75 years have brought many exciting additions and changes at the Observatory. 1958 saw the retirement of the first Observatory Director, Dr. Dinsmore Alter, after 23 years. In the 1960s, the original Zeiss Mark II planetarium projector was replaced with a Zeiss Mark IV projector, Apollo astronauts were trained to navigate by the stars in the planetarium theater, and Dr. Clarence Cleminshaw retired after 34 years of service as the Assistant Director (1935-1958) and Director (1958-1969). In November of 1973, Laserium premiered--a program that continued until January 2002. After Dr. William Kaufman's resignation as Director (1970-1974), Dr. E.C. Krupp became the fourth Director of the Observatory, a position he currently holds after over 36 years, making him the longest-serving Director. The 1970s also saw Griffith Observatory designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 168 and the official incorporation of the Friends Of The Observatory by Dr. Krupp and Debra and Harold Griffith.

In 1985, the fiftieth anniversary was celebrated on May 14, Halley's Comet brought in unprecedented crowds, and on January 1, 1989, the Observatory was featured on a Rose Parade float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. In the 1990s, a master plan for the Observatory's future was approved, the Astronomers Monument restoration was completed, and huge crowds saw live telescopic viewing of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter. In 2002, the Observatory closed to the public after 67 years of service for renovation and expansion and on October 30, the groundbreaking for the project occurred. After a $93 million makeover, the Observatory building and grounds reopened to the public on November 2, 2006. Since that time, the Observatory has continued serving the public with new educational school programs and events.

I consider it a great privilege to represent Griffith Observatory and I ask all Members to join me in congratulating this iconic, cultural landmark upon its seventy-fifth anniversary.