A place
of wonder, discovery, and legend.

Unlike anywhere else...
in the entire cosmos.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

The story of Yerkes Observatory began on a household rooftop in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago in 1882. George Ellery Hale, a 14-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity about science, installed his first telescope there. A decade later Hale and his father constructed a proper observatory with a 12-inch telescope next to their home. Hale’s ideas about astronomy, observatories, and architecture would culminate in the creation of Yerkes Observatory, housing not just one telescope but three, including the 12-inch refractor from Hale’s youth.

Mapping the unfolding universe for 125 years.

Yerkes Observatory. Come and see.

What will the stars reveal to you?

Ancient navigators charted their course by them. Romantics pledge their love underneath them. Scientists unravel new secrets about them. Northwoods campers marvel at the sheer number of them. The stars have forever mystified, fascinated, and inspired us. For 125 years and counting, Yerkes Observatory has helped shape our understanding of the universe. And it is once again open for you to explore.

Stroll the lush grounds, originally designed by the Olmsted firm which created New York’s Central Park. Take a tour through the Beaux Arts and Romanesque building, itself a treasure. Follow in the footsteps of astronomical greats like George Ellery Hale, Edwin Hubble, and Carl Sagan as you enter the cathedral-like dome. Size up the Great Refractor telescope—all 63 feet and 19 tons of it—so delicately balanced that it can be moved by hand.

Yerkes Observatory Staff, 1898

Yerkes’ next chapter is as a beacon—drawing in future generations of explorers and scientists to new realms of discovery. Plan a visit and prepare to be amazed, just like the astronomers and visitors of the past 125 years.

Space & Spaces

A Yerkes tour can tell you a lot. Let’s say your interest is . . . astronomy, for example. You could learn about space exploration. The unheralded early role of women in science. Cold War defense systems. The invaluable contributions of immigrant astronomers. The time Carl Sagan thought he broke the telescope as a graduate student.

Hidden Space

Tour Henry Ives Cobb's masterpiece of Beaux Arts and Romanesque design, an elaborate confection of ornament and order. In this cathedral for cosmos mariners, every detail tells a story—from the top of the iron-laced dome to the floor on an elevator to the subterranean dungeon.

Self-Guided Ground Tour

Enjoy a self-guided ecology tour and walk amongst a 50-acre landscape designed by the firm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted. They also created New York's Central Park, the Biltmore Gardens, and the U.S. Capital Grounds. While you're delightning in the flora and fauna, can you spot the Wisconsin champion tree?

Celebration! Olmstead 200

2022 marked the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted's birth. He was a social reformer and the first pillar of American landscape architecture. Please join Yerkes Observatory and the National Association for Olmsted Parks as we explore Olmsted’s living legacy on site for the next hundred years.

Personalize Your celebration

Have your wedding on the Olmsted South Lawn rising from the shore of Geneva Lake. Hold your rehearsal dinner in our historic library. Family reunions, birthday parties, baby and wedding showers are also welcome in our stately spaces.

Host An Event

Whether you are planning a corporate retreat or organizing a private party, Yerkes Observatory's botanical splendor, historic architectural spaces, and thoughtful staff provide a special atmosphere for any occasion.

Follow us and let your mind fly high.

If you love history, space, architecture, or the outdoors, Yerkes isn’t just a visit. It’s a pilgrimage.
History Buff, Chicago, Ill.
It’s worth coming back again and again. I see something new every time I visit because the restoration continues.
Repeat Visitor, Geneva Lake, Wis.
The new trails on the grounds are just amazing. You can really get in touch with nature here.
Nature Lover, Spring Green, Wis.
So inspiring! After looking up at the Great Refractor, my high school-age daughter now wants to be an astronomer.
Mom of Aspiring Astronomer, Eau Claire, Wis.
You can still feel the energy here. Exploring the universe will always be mystical and exciting.
Stargazer, Grand Rapids, Mich.