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Griffith Observatory Photos & History

Griffith Observatory Photos and History

Colonel Griffith Griffiths

The Griffith Observatory and Hall of science provided for by Col. Griffith Griffith four years before his death, presented some problems. As in the case of the Greek Theatre, Col. Griffith selected and stipulated the exact site for each. The location selected for the observatory and Hall of science was at the very top of Mount Hollywood. Even the means of access was decided; it was to be a particular railroad from the head of Vermont Canyon to the mountaintop. This, in turn, was to be reached by the extension of the street railway at a 5 cent fare. All of these details were intended to be in the interest of the public.

Photo of Griffith Observatory

But, by the time work on the project was ready to be undertaken, the automobile had become a dominant factor and streetcars were on the decline.  It was readily realize that to really speak crass of the mountain presented an insurmountable problem of parking the number of cars that would be involved in carrying the crowds that would certainly swarm to the site.

There was an excellent site available at a lower elevation where to access routes could be provided plus ample parking. But Col. Griffith’s will directed it that the top of the mountain the use. The city had only one course to take. This was to technically break the will as the only means of carrying out its purpose. A friendly suit was filed which resulted in court authority to modify that feature of the will. The present location was thus authorized. In reaching this decision, the court not only recognize practical traffic problem, it also recognize that Col. Griffith earnest interest in providing a telescope would be fully met at the lower side, where only a very small part of the northern sky is instructed by Mount Hollywood.

Griffith Observatory Photo

Griffith Observatory Construction

Work began on the Observatory in 1933. Watches from below saw the massive structure of modernized Greek architecture, surmounted by three giant copper domes, rise and take form. Vintage photos of the construction of the Griffith Observatory can be found on the website. All of these photos and many others are available for purchase. After almost 2 years of construction, the dedication and formal opening occurred on May 14, 1935. Many of the distinguished scientist in attendance hailed the structure as one of the finest observatories in the country. Its features were the most modern of the day.

Hundreds of great south down is the largest planetarium theater, which houses the Zeus planetarium projector. The seeing of the theater is a hemisphere 75 feet in diameter. On yet the planetarium instrument in the center of the room projects the sky almost exactly as one would see it under the very clearest of conditions, from any place that he might choose in the whole world at any hour for thousands of years, past or future. The capacity will force your theater is 665 and at the nightly demonstrations, especially during the summer months, are often filled completely by those who, for an hour, find themselves in an artificial universe.

Photo of Griffith Observatory

The smaller films contain the 12 inch refractor, which visitors may view rthe heavenly bodies, and the coelostat for observing the Sun.

When the visitor enters the observatory, passing through the massive bronze doors, his eyes are drawn to the Foucault pendulum, demonstrating by is unhurried sling, the rotation of the Earth on its axis. The eight large murals in the foyer of the observatory picture the myths and legends which the clouded science in ancient times, and the figures of flesh and blood men who have pushed forward the frontiers of knowledge. On the down, from which the Foucault pendulum hangs, is painted an enormous mural depicting the likeness of actress and the wins, and other classic gods of Rome and Greece.

With all of these features, the structure unobtrusively and beautifully identifies itself on the southern face of Griffin Park and overlooks the vast coastal plain where I lived most of the millions of people for whom Col. Griffith gave Griffith Observatory.

Today, the Griffith Observatory is one of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles. Almost 1,000,000 people visit the observatory and look through its telescopes.


Many Hollywood movies have been filmed at the observatory, including the film, “Rebel Without A Cause”, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.

The largest collection of Griffith Observatory photos is on the website. 

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