The History and Development of the Griffith Park Observatory
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GEOL 1000 – Physical Geology
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The History and Development of the Griffith Park Observatory
The Griffith Observatory is a cultural attraction site on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It is one of LA’s greatest sites offering spectacular views from the Pacific Ocean to Downtown LA. The Griffith Observatory was opened on May 14, 1935, as it welcomed more than ten thousand tourists during its first week of operation. Today, the observatory leads in public astronomy and has become a nation’s beloved place for tourists and LA residents to gather. Its exhibits, showground, and telescopes are available for the public during its open days. The Griffith Observatory also offers public stars events, special events, and other weekly programs (DJang, 2014).
The history of the Griffith Observatory begins in 1896 with Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy mining speculator. He contributed to the park’s development by donating 3015 acres of land to the City of Los Angeles to make astronomy accessible to the general public. He wanted to make astronomy accessible to the public. His plan included a Hall of Science with physical exhibits, an astronomical telescope open to free viewing, and a monitor picture theater to show educational, scientific films. The plan also included a planetarium technology that came to be invented in the 1920 (Cook Anthony (n.d.).
He also donated funds to set up a planetarium and an observatory exhibit hall on the land. The land was once a Spanish settlement owned by Rancho Los Felis. In the 1770s, the Spanish California Governor passed on the land to Corporal Vincente Felis, who stayed with it for over a century. Vincente subdivided the land to his family through generations until Griffith purchased part of it in 1882.
Griffith and his team selected scientists and astronomers to plan the observatory development. Among the selected astronomers was George Ellery Hale, who steered the whole design since he had a background and experience from telescopes at Mount Wilson, Yerkes, and Palomar observatories. Edward Kurth, a Caltech physicist, designed the preliminary outlook of the building while other architects such as Fredrick M. Ashley and John C. Austin oversaw the final plan.
The observatory was closed for a major renovation and expansion in 2002 and reopened in 2006. The expansion consisted of new exhibits, a gift shop, a new Café, and the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre. Each exhibit region, including Gunther Depths of Space, Wilder Hall of the Eye, W.M Keck Foundation Central Rotunda, and Edge of Space Mezzanine, focuses on a unique aspect of observation.
The story of the Observatory shifts from the 1919 Griffith bequest to the 1935Griffith Observatory. The story would not be complete without mentioning public leaders, architects, and astronomers who brought the vision to reality. The observatory attracted seventy million visitors from 1935 to 2002 and became the world’s leader in astronomy for the general public. It has a unique setting and architecture, powerful programs and offers, and theatres, making it one of the most popular and visited cultural sites in southern California (Leslie & Margolis, 2017). Thousands of people visit the building to view the live planetarium exhibits and watch the heavens or the coasts.



Cook, Anthony. (n.d.). Creating Griffith observatory. NASA/ADS.…221.9001C/abstract
DJang D. (2014, May 13). The Griffith observatory: The story of an LA icon. Discover Los Angeles.,planetarium%20on%20the%20donated%20land
Leslie, S. W., & Margolis, E. A. (2017). Griffith observatory: Hollywood’s celestial theater. Early Popular Visual Culture, 15(2), 227-246.
Observatory history. (2022, January 10). Griffith Observatory.

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