Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041                                                                   

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

Telephone: 412-561-7876

Electronic Mail: < >

Internet Web Site: < >


                                                             NEWS RELEASE


For immediate release: 2005 July 26

For more information -- Glenn A. Walsh:

               Daytime: E-Mail < >

               Evening: Telephone 412-561-7876







Pittsburgh, July 26 – In a unanimous vote, this morning Pittsburgh City Council approved legislation declaring that the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building is a City Designated Historic Structure; the vote came at precisely 11:24:17 a.m. EDST. This is the culmination of a six-month process, for the historic designation of this well known Pittsburgh landmark, begun by city resident Jon Wilson Smith on behalf of Friends of the Zeiss.


This designation approval comes within an hour of the successful return to space of America’s Space Shuttle. Space Shuttle Discovery was launched from Cape Canaveral , as scheduled, at precisely 10:39 a.m. (EDST), following more than two years when the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded after the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia.


The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science opened in 1939 as the last major planetarium constructed before World War II, and the fifth Zeiss planetarium installation in America. The original Buhl Planetarium had several historic firsts:

Ø       First planetarium projector placed on an elevator, to increase flexibility in the Theater of the Stars;

Ø       First planetarium theater which included a permanent theatrical stage;

Ø       First planetarium theater (and, perhaps, first theater) to install a special sound system specifically for the hearing impaired—remember, this was in 1939 !;

Ø       First publicly-owned building in the City (and, possibly, the State) constructed with air-conditioning;

Ø       First permanent Siderostat Telescope specifically designed for public use;

Ø       First regional Science Fair for school students (from 26 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia) in the country started at Buhl Planetarium in the Spring of 1940. Only two state-wide science fairs are older than the annual Pittsburgh Regional School Science and Engineering Fair.


Additionally, for more than 53 years, Buhl Planetarium housed an exhibit that was considered the largest Mercator’s Projection Map in the world! And, the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which operated as the primary educational instrument of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science for nearly 55 years, was the oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world before being dismantled in October of 2002.


                                                (More – Next Page)

News Release: City Council Designates Buhl Planetarium Historic Landmark

                                                                        2005 July 26                           Page 2 of 2



Designation as a City Designated Historic Structure, which was first proposed in 1989 (Buhl Planetarium’s 50th anniversary), would mean that the Buhl Planetarium building cannot be demolished, or the exterior altered, without approval of the Old Allegheny Post Office and the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, both buildings beside Buhl Planetarium on the North Side, are already City Designated Historic Structures.


Such designation does not protect the interior of the building, or furnishings, equipment, or artifacts in the building, nor does any law exist for their protection. Nor does designation require that the owner or lessee continue operations in the building. The Buhl Planetarium building is owned by the City of Pittsburgh and is currently leased by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.


To reach City Council for the final vote today, the process required that the historic nomination go through five public hearings: three before the Historic Review Commission and one, each, before the City Planning Commission and City Council. Either by verbal or written testimony, 48 people testified in favor of the historic nomination, at the five public hearings; no one testified in opposition to the proposal. Consequently, both the Historic Review Commission and City Planning Commission, unanimously, recommended that City Council approve the designation proposal.


And, at the first public hearing in February, both the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (current tenant of the Buhl Planetarium building) endorsed the proposed designation.


The public can read more about this historic nomination, including viewing the historic nomination application in its entirety, by going to either of these Internet web sites:


< >    or    < >

Created in 2002, Friends of the Zeiss is a non-profit organization working to preserve the history and heritage of the building, equipment, and artifacts of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

--30 –


Glenn A. Walsh

  Electronic Mail - < >

  Internet, World Wide Web Sites -

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

  < >

  History of The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago:

  < >

  History of Astronomer and Optician John A. Brashear:

  < >

  History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries:

  < >

  The Duquesne Incline, historic cable car railway, Pittsburgh:

  < >