History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

America's Fifth Major Planetarium

October 24, 1939 through August 31, 1991
[Operated by Carnegie Institute
from January, 1987 through February, 1994]

Internet World Wide Web Site: http://www.planetarium.cc
Electronic Mail: Jake@planetarium.cc

October 24, 1999 marks the 60th anniversary of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science !

Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

Photo
of Buhl Planetarium in Allegheny 
Square

The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science(during the 1980s, also known as the Buhl Science Center) opened as this country's fifth major planetarium on October 24, 1939 on the Lower North Side of Pittsburgh(now located within an office and apartment complex known as Allegheny Center), formerly the downtown business district of Allegheny City, Pennsylania; Buhl was built on the site of the former Allegheny City Hall(the City of Pittsburgh annexed the City of Allegheny in December of 1907). Buhl opened featuring a Zeiss II Planetarium projector, which is now the oldest operating, major planetarium projector in the world! "The People's Observatory," featuring a ten-inch, Siderostat-type, refractor telescope(now, second largest of its type), was dedicated by Harvard College Observatory Director Harlow Shapley on November 19, 1941.

In addition to the emphasis in Astronomy, The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was one of the nation's first museums to provide exhibits and presentations on various Physical Sciences. Up until that time, major museums, specializing in the Physical Sciences, only existed in Philadelphia(Franklin Institute, including the Fels Planetarium) and Chicago(Museum of Science and Industry, separate from the Adler Planetarium); in Los Angeles, the recently completed Griffith Observatory and Planetarium also included a small amount of gallery space for exhibits in Astronomy and the Physical Sciences. Previously, Natural History Museums in several large cities; including New York: American Museum of Natural History(which included the newly constructed Hayden Planetarium), Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History(separate from the Museum of Science and Industry and Adler Planetarium), Washington: Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History, and Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Natural History; took the role of the Science Museum.

Buhl also provided some presentations and exhibitry in the Life Sciences. An epideoscope(antique overhead projector) was used for Buhl's "Micro Zoo" presentation, which showed microscopic life on a projection screen. "Transpara, The Talking Glass Lady," used a full-sized model of a woman to show the major organs and bones of the human body, in a short public presentation. "Wonder of Wonders," a sex-education program, was carefully presented by a registered nurse; this program was primarily given to school groups, where the students had received parental permission(special parent presentations, prior to a school group's visit to Buhl, were always offered). Starting in May of 1983, chicks (and sometimes also ducklings) were hatched each weekend in the "BioCorner" Embryology Exhibit, using a specially redesigned hatchery which showed the entire hatching process; patrons, particularly children, could pet, feed, and hold the young chicks and ducklings, under staff supervision.

The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was constructed by the Buhl Foundation(the nation's thirteenth largest foundation in 1939). The Buhl Foundation was founded, using a bequest of more than $11 million(1927 dollars) from the estate of Henry Buhl, Jr.(1848-1927), a wealthy Allegheny City merchant. The will of Herny Buhl provided the funds for The Buhl Foundation, in the memory of his late wife Louise, for charitable works in the Pittsburgh area, with some emphasis on the city's North Side.

His business, the Boggs and Buhl Department Store, catered to the carriage trade--particularly to the residents of Allegheny City's "millionares row" on Ridge Avenue, just a few blocks from the department store's Federal Street location; several of these former mansions now are buildings used by the Allegheny Campus of the Community College of Allegheny County(CCAC). The Boggs and Buhl Department Store stood about a block from where The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building was constructed. Boggs and Buhl closed in the late 1950s; it is said that the last owner of the department store did not consider it economically feasible to update(including the installation of air conditioning) the building.

In the late 1960s, Allegheny Center Mall, part of the new Allegheny Center retail, office, and apartment complex(originally developed by the ALCOA Corporation, which has recently constructed a new world headquarters building two blocks south of Allegheny Center on the North Shore of the Allegheny River), replaced the Boggs and Buhl Department Store building. This shopping mall included Sears, Roebuck, and Company(which had formerly been located elsewhere in the lower North Side business district), Woolworths, and, eventually Zayres(which later became Ames) as anchor tenants. In addition to the shopping mall, Allegheny Center includes three office buildings(including a building built to house the regional headquarters of IBM Corporation--which had previously been housed in Five Gateway Center, Downtown), four apartment buildings, a three-level underground parking garage, and an above-level parking garage(as part of the IBM building complex).

Other new buildings were constructed on the periphery of Allegheny Center, across the new four-lane, one-way street(Commons Street-North, West, East, and South) which circles the complex. A new post office(former location of the Fort Wayne Railroad Station--where Abraham Lincoln disembarked on his way to his first Presidential inauguration in 1861), Equitable Gas steam plant, two new churches, townhouses, and Section 8 apartments for the low-income were built on this periphery. Existing buildings remaining on the periphery include a Bell Telephone local exchange building, Allegheny High School(now Middle School) with a newly-constructed Annex building, Saint Peters Roman Catholic Church with a newly-constructed elementary school, and two churches(one church was destroyed by fire in the late 1980s). Allegheny Commons Park--West, North, and East(the largest part of the park to the west of Allegheny Center is better known as West Park) encircles Allegheny Center on the west, north, and east. This was part of the original "Commons" land set-up by Allegheny City in the early nineteenth century. Allegheny Center is bordered to the south by the Norfolk and Southern Railroad(originally the Fort Wayne Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which later was known as the Penn-Central Railroad and ConRail).

With the completion of Allegheny Center, Buhl Planetarium was suddenly in the middle of this new Urban Renewal complex, along with the old Allegheny City Post Office(1897) and the very first publicly-funded Carnegie Library and Music Hall(1890). A new Allegheny Square city plaza replaced the former Ober Park(originally the location of the Allegheny Town Square). The height of the newly-constructed office and apartment buildings had been a concern to Buhl Planetarium management; they feared the new buildings would prevent use of the institution's telescopes. Although the building heights(they did not exceed thirteen floors) did not affect Buhl's ten-inch, "Siderostat-type" refractor telescope, some parts of the horizon were now blocked by the new buildings, when using portable telescopes on Buhl's roof.

The Allegheny City Market House, caddy-corner(southeast) of the Buhl Planetarium, was razed to build one of the apartment buildings. Additional apartment buildings were planned for the sites of the old Allegheny Post Office(just west of Buhl) and the Carnegie Library and Music Hall(just east of Buhl). After Buhl management declined to accept the old Post Office building as an addition(it was offered to Buhl for one dollar), the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, after a community-wide fundraising campaign, succeeded in saving the building from the wrecking ball. The Foundation created a city history museum in the building, in the 1970s. On June 12, 1983, after considering a site in Highland Park, the newly-established Pittsburgh Children's Museum opened in the basement of the Old Post Office Museum. By 1987, the Children's Museum occupied all three floors of the building; the History and Landmarks Foundation then concentrated on an outdoor museum at Station Square on the South Side. In June of 1991, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation deeded the building to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.

The Carnegie Library and Music Hall was in poor shape, when the library moved part of its collection to a small site on the Terrace Level of the Allegheny Center Mall in the late 1960s. Although demolition of the building was considered, the interior was renovated in a modern motif and reopened in the mid-1970s. The new theater in the Music Hall was christened the Theodore Hazlett Theatre and became the home of the new Pittsburgh Public Theater; the Public Theater remained in Carnegie Hall until the opening of the new O'Reilly Theater, in the Downtown Cultural District, in December of 1999. The Hazlett Theatre is now being operated by the City of Pittsburgh for the use of local theatrical groups. Recently, Carnegie Library has consolidated operations on the first floor of the building. Current plans are to move the Children's Room to the second floor, which originally housed the Library's Reference Department.

With the reopening of Carnegie Library and Music Hall, and the creation of the Old Post Office Museum--later the Children's Museum, along with the continually-operated Buhl Planetarium, Allegheny Center boasted three cultural facilities in the midst of the Urban Renewal complex. This was unique compared to similar urban development projects in the country.

With the bankruptcy and closing of Ames in the late 1980s, and the closing of Sears and Buhl Planetarium in the early 1990s, Allegheny Center Mall converted from a shopping mall to an office complex. Even with this conversion, Woolworths remained as an anchor tenant--until the parent company closed all Woolworth stores, nationwide, in the mid-1990s.

The Buhl Foundation completely funded the construction and furnishing of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building at a cost of $1,070,000(1939 dollars); the Buhl Foundation then presented the building and all furnishings as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh. This included the Zeiss Model II Planetarium Projector, imported from the Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany, at a cost of $135,000(1938 dollars). "The People's Observatory," when completed and opened to the public on November 19, 1941, included a ten-inch, Siderostat-type, refractor telescope. Although designed specifically for use by the public, the telescope was manufactured to professional observatory specifications by the Gaertner Scientific Company of Chicago, at a cost of $30,000(1941 dollars).

The Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh, formed in 1929, was active in convincing the Buhl Foundation to build a planetarium in Pittsburgh; Association co-founder Leo J. Scanlon(who passed-away on November 27, 1999, at age 96) had seen Chicago's Adler Planetarium, the nation's first, in 1930. The Buhl Foundation presented the one million-dollar facility to the City of Pittsburgh in 1939, but continued operating the building until February 3, 1982. On that date, the Buhl Foundation set up an independent Board of Directors for the, then, Buhl Science Center, and provided the Science Center with a small endowment. On January 1, 1987, the Buhl Science Center merged with The Carnegie Institute, in anticipation of either expansion of the current Science Center building or construction of an entirely new Science Center building.

The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science closed as a public museum on August 31, 1991, prior to the October 5, 1991 opening of The Carnegie Science Center, which includes the new Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory; The Carnegie Science Center is located one mile southwest of Buhl, on the North Shore of the Ohio River. The Buhl Planetarium building continued to be used for Science Center Science and Computer classes until February of 1994. The City of Pittsburgh, which legally owns the property, building, planetarium projector, and telescope, is currently seeking a new tenant to restore and reuse this historic facility.

Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

About the Author

The author of this Internet, World Wide Web Site is Glenn A. Walsh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who has nearly twenty years of professional experience with museums/planetaria and public libraries. Much of this experience was with Carnegie Museums and Carnegie Libraries in the Pittsburgh region, where Andrew Carnegie amassed his fortune.

Mr. Walsh was employed in several capacities with The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in Pittsburgh (then known as the Buhl Science Center) and its successor, The Carnegie Science Center, from June of 1982 through January of 1992. Among the several positions Mr. Walsh held during this time span were Planetarium Lecturer(three years); Astronomical Observatory Coordinator(five years); and Curator of the Embryology Exhibit, which included the weekly hatching of chicks and ducklings(four years). In January of 1987, the Buhl Science Center merged with The Carnegie Institute to become one of The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. A new Carnegie Science Center, located one mile southwest of the Buhl building(next to the Ohio River), replaced the Buhl Science Center in October of 1991.

Mr. Walsh served as a Life Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library of Carnegie, Pennsylvania from April 20, 1995(96th anniversary of legal establishment of the Library by Andrew Carnegie) through June 6, 2000. He has been associated with the Library since November of 1990. He served one year as the Library Board's Treasurer and two years as the Board's Secretary, and he served as the Library's Historian. Mr. Walsh also coordinated the weekly tours of the Library's Civil War Museum, The Captain Thomas Espy Post, Number 153, Grand Army of the Republic.

Mr. Walsh manages several educational, history web sites on the Internet. He also manages the web site of The Duquesne Incline of Pittsburgh; this web site is hosted, for educational purposes, on the domain of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, through their Three Rivers Free-Net, part of the Electronic Information Network For Public Libraries in Allegheny County.

The author can be contacted by telephone: 412-561-7876; or by electronic mail: gawalsh@planetarium.cc

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the following people who contributed photographs, documents and other literature, historical information, and ideas for this Internet web site:

Eric G. Canali, Lynne S. Comunale, Sean W. Comunale, Norman Downey, Francis G. Graham, Greg Madden,
Tim Manka, John Miller, Mike Orban, Emil Quatchak, Garth E. Schafer, Rick Sebak, Jeff Sweeney, and
Pete Zapadka.

Also, thanks to the Three Rivers Free-Net of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for use of their digital scanner and other computer equipment.


History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

Internet Web Site Master Index

Internet World Wide Web Site: http://www.planetarium.cc
Electronic Mail: Jake@planetarium.cc

History Cover Page

News Regarding the Historic Buhl Building, Equipment, and Artifacts

General History -

History Cover Page
Buhl Fact Sheet
Historical Highlights
History Photo Album
Historic News Articles
Buhl Publications
Proof of the Pudding: Achievements of Buhl Alumni, 1939-1989
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago --

Inspiration for The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

"Theater of the Stars" and "The People's Observatory" -

"The Theater of the Stars" - Buhl's Planetarium Theater
featuring the Zeiss Model II Planetarium Projector
The oldest operating, major planetarium projector in the world!!!
"The People's Observatory" - Buhl's Astronomical Observatory
featuring the Ten-inch, Siderostat-type, Refractor Telescope
Second largest Siderostat-type telesscope in the world!
Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory at The Carnegie Science Center

Institute of Popular Science/Science Center -

Buhl Exhibits and Programs
Annual Reports of Programs, Exhibits, and Attendance
Staff Handbooks
History of the Miniature Railroad and Village
Historical Artifacts and Equipment Which Remain in Buhl Building
Historic Buhl Exhibits Now Displayed at The Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center

Building Physical Plant -

Architectural Studies, Floor Plans, and Technical Specifications
Building Overview
Building Exterior Photographs
Photographs of Building Construction
Historical Artifacts and Equipment Which Remain in Buhl Building

Neighbors of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science

Carnegie Science Center

Pittsburgh Children's Museum
in the historic Old Allegheny Post Office
(1897)

National Aviary


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,
Allegheny Regional Branch

First publicly-funded Carnegie Library
(1890)

Hazlett Theatre in Carnegie Hall
Part of 1890 Carnegie Library building


Other History Links

History of the Allegheny Observatory, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Link 1 *** Link 2

History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
America's Fifth Major Planetarium

History of The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois
America's First Major Planetarium

History of Astronomer and Optician John A. Brashear
(Friend of Andrew Carnegie)

Allegheny City Society, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Preserving the history of Allegheny City and Pittsburgh's North Side

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Operated by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries Photo Album

History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

History Cover Page for the
Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall
, Carnegie, Pennsylvania

History of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library Civil War Museum:
The Captain Thomas Espy Post #153, Grand Army of the Republic
,
Carnegie, Pennsylvania

History Cover Page for The Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Quick-Reference Page - Historic Attractions

Related Links

Allegheny Observatory, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Link 1 *** Link 2

Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory at The Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Link 1 *** Link 2

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory, Russelton, Pennsylvania, of the
Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh - Link 1 *** Link 2

Deer Lakes Regional Park of the County of Allegheny, Russelton, Pennsylvania
(home of the Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory)
Link 1

Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Quick-Reference Page - Science

Brashear Association, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Brashear LP, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(formerly Contraves Brashear Systems, L.P.)
Current successor to John Brashear's optical company

Brashear High School of the School District of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Miniature Railroad and Village at
The Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Three Rivers Free-Net, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Electronic Information Network For Public Libraries in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Regional Branch, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(formerly the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, the first publicly-funded Carnegie Library)

Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Carnegie, Pennsylvania

The Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh Children's Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

National Aviary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(formerly the Carnegie Technical Schools and the Carnegie Institute of Technology)

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(formerly the Pittsburgh Academy and the Western University of Pennsylvania)

Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh



Disclaimer Statement: This Internet Web page is not affiliated with the Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory,
The Carnegie Science Center, or The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Institute.

This Internet, World Wide Web Site, created September 5, 1999, administered by Glenn A. Walsh.
Copyright 1999-2000, Glenn A. Walsh, All Rights Reserved.
Additions and corrections to: Jake@planetarium.cc

Last modified : Sunday, 23-Jul-2000 17:53:51 EDT.