28 Mar Historic observatory becomes hot property on Lake Geneva
The University of Chicago has put its Yerkes Observatory, an ornate building on Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva, up for sale to fund “making this century’s discoveries,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Historic, beautiful and obsolete, the observatory sits on 77 lakeside acres in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and is a reminder of technology’s inevitable replacement. Now more recreational site than center of science, the building is up for grabs in a deal that has some worried its historic importance may be compromised by the wrong buyer.
The former powerhouse of American astronomy, finished in 1897, has fallen out of the limelight since 1960 because of atmospheric pollution and new technological devlopments. A single full-time faculty member serves at Yerkes, doing mostly educational outreach.
According to the Tribune, the rumored offering price from an unidentified developer is $10 million, but the university is giving nearby residents a chance to band together and make a counter-offer.
The residents are looking for partnerships or investors, such as Aurora University, which owns a neighboring property, George Williams College. But Aurora will only bite if it can at least avoid losing money running the observatory.
That could be tricky, and in the current real-estate market Yerkes Observatory may be primarily an example of fine architecture from the end of the 19th century.