Funds for the McMillin Observatory were donated
by Emerson McMillin, president of Columbus Gas Light & Coke Company.
OSU’s first astronomical observatory was the result of a monetary gift for a telescope and astronomical equipment from Emerson McMillin, New York banker and utility executive. The building, formally named Emerson McMillin Observatory, was constructed on top of a small hill overlooking Mirror Lake, and it was opened on June 16, 1896. The observatory was equipped with a 12 ½ inch (a lens 12 1/2 inches in diameter) refracting telescope and contained a small laboratory and planetarium. The Observatory was known as one of the finest in the state at the time of its construction. During its early years, the observatory was well known for studies conducted there of stars and asteroids. Research work and classes in astronomy were held in the observatory until the 1950s, when it was replaced by Perkins Observatory, in Delaware, Ohio, which contained a much larger telescope. Classes, however, continued to be held in the observatory until 1962, when the dome shutters were declared unsafe to open. The building was closed in 1968 when the new astronomy facilities became available in Smith Laboratory. The building remained a campus landmark, although it was slated for demolition on several occasions, the first being in 1963. The Observatory was finally razed in 1976.
This 1922 photo shows McMillan at the bottom. The Howard Smith designed Pomerene Hall is seen under construction just to the left of the observatory.