Bawtenheimer Observatory

(1951-62?) Dan Bawtenheimer's observatory near the Windsor, Ontario airport.

Dan Bawtenheimer completed his observatory in 19511 featuring an imposing aluminum-clad dome 13 feet in diameter2 with a cement floor and insulated frame walls about six feet in height covered in brick siding.3  Conveniently located on the grounds of his home, "Poplar Lodge," it was host to an annual June gathering of the Windsor Centre for a number of years.  Many members of the public were introduced to stargazing through its 10-inch reflector.4  The impressiveness of this setup was related by Randy Groundwater in 1983:

Over 20 years ago, a trip out the Baseline Road by the airport would afford you a rare astronom­ical opportunity: The sight of an amateur owned domed observatory housing a 10" Newtonian reflector. In those days, such a set-up was virtually unknown. The 6" f/8 ruled supreme, and anything larger was only a dream for the average amateur. But Dan Bawtenheimer was a remarkable man. Here at his home out in the country, people often viewed the moon, planets, and stars in what must truly have been a unique amateur installation.5

He goes on to summarize its later demise:

It must have hurt Dan very badly to have had to dismantle it eventually, because of persistent vandalism. The dome was ultim­ately destroyed during a wind­ storm. The telescope was dismant­led, and lost.6

As it turns out, there is a bit more history between Bawtenheimer's dismantling of his observatory and the ultimate destruction of its dome.  He donated it to the Windsor Centre which in turn gave it to Lynn Staffin.7  In 1963 Staffin relocated and redeployed the dome—on stubby walls, and with a much-enlarged slot which doubled as a door—as Maidstone Observatory, with the goal of teaching astronomy locally.8  Unfortunately the project did not succeed, and this became the dome's final home, as recounted by Art Rae:

The last I recall about it, probably in the late 1960’s, was that the observatory was broken into and the main objective, a six-inch cell, was smashed. Mr Staffin never repaired the telescope afterward. In later years the building was demolished and ended completly [sic] the Maidstone Observatory.9

This demolition also ended the last vestige of Dan Bawtenheimer's great observatory.

WM

 

Notes

  1. Broughton, Bawtenheimer file, p.1
  2. Notes and Queries- Mr. Bawtenheimer's Observatory, JRASC, 46, 252 (1952)
  3. Windsor Star, "Observatory Readied," January 4, 1964 (Staffin file, p.10-11).
  4. Service Award Citation, JRASC, 59, 136; Bawtenheimer file, p.2.
  5. The Dan Bawtenheimer Telescope, Bawtenheimer file, p.3.
  6. The mirror from Bawtenheimer's 10" reflector did, in fact, survive and was integrated into a new telescope built by Windsor Centre members in 1983.
  7. Windsor Star, "Observatory Readied," January 4, 1964 (Staffin file, p.10-11).
  8. Staffin file, p.2.
  9. Private communication 2018 Nov 21 (Staffin file, p.7).

 

Description: 
Observatory, Bawtenheimer
Type: 
Place