Palomar Observatory Bookends

04 Oct
Photo of Palomar Observatory Bookends

Palomar Mountain Observatory with the dome open. Inscription on back is “Pat Pending.”

There are quite a few bookend pairs that were produced as souvenir buildings for tourists.  This pair is for the Palomar Observatory building in San Diego County, California.  The Observatory is massive but here it rests comfortably on a book, with books behind it. The bookends are of gray metal and unmarked except for the words Palomar Observatory.  We attribute them to Dodge, probably produced  about the time the Observatory opened in 1949.  Nowadays, you can visit the Observatory, but you will not find these bookends for sale.  You may locate a pair on eBay or in an antiques display, but the price may be higher than you expect because souvenir building collectors also search out these historical treasures.

Palomar Observatory Ashtray

Palomar Observatory Ashtray

The observatory, with its 200 inch mirror, was the world’s largest until 1992, and it is still a force in astronomical research today.  On June 8, 2011 Caltech-led astronomers announced they had found a new class of Stellar Explosion.  An excellent historical timeline for the development of the Palomar Mountain Observatory site can be viewed at the CALTECH ASTRONOMY website.

Donna has a particular fondness for the Observatory.  Two of her uncles helped paint the dome in the late 1930s.  Her grandmother was photographed with the dome in the background about that same time.  In the 1950s the family enjoyed Easter Sunrise Services at the Observatory Picnic Grounds, driving up the twisting road in the dark and back down in the fog that formed after daybreak, both trips a little scary.  A trip to the Observatory was obligatory for any visiting friends and family.  Not only was the tour impressive but the air-conditioning in the building always amazed everyone – it was cold.

Photo of woman and Palomar Observatory Dome

Visiting Palomar Observatory circa 1939

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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Buildings


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