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Cincinnati Observatory celebrates 150 years in Mount Lookout

A historical marker stands in front of a 19th century brick building with a metal dome on top.
Bill Rinehart
The Cincinnati Observatory moved a few miles away from its original home, Mount Ida, which is now known as Mount Adams. The new area was dubbed Mount Lookout.

The Cincinnati Observatory observes a big anniversary this weekend.

Mt. Adams used to be called Mt. Ida, until former President John Quincy Adams spoke at the dedication of the Cincinnati Observatory there. Mt. Lookout got its name when the Observatory relocated there 150 years ago.

Observatory Executive Director Anna Hehman says other contributions to Cincinnati history are much bigger.

Orsmby MacKnight Mitchel founded the Observatory after he gave a series of lectures. "He found that it was popular; these talks were so popular, he wanted to create a public observatory," she says. "Not an academic one or one for the rich or whatever might have been inaccessible at the time. So, he literally crowd-funded, going door-to-door, selling shares."

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Hehman says that money paid for the Mitchel telescope, which is still used today.

"He really hit on something that we still see 180 years later: people being interested, and wanting to know what’s going on, and the Observatory being able to provide programs and information is such an incredible legacy," she says. "We love to share it."

Hehman says today, the Observatory has two telescopes, and educational and outreach programs.

The original Observatory was founded in Mount Adams in 1842, but moved in 1873 to escape the pollution and lights of Downtown.

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"We feel proud that we're, I think, one of the gems in Cincinnati's crown of having this incredible history of being the first public observatory, and being right here in a neighborhood," she says. "People can come and visit and participate in programs and experience the wonder and the inspiration of looking up at the skies to this day."

She says there's special telescope viewings planned Saturday, weather permitting, and items from their historical collection will be on display.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.