We Are Open

I’m going to start our first blog post by highlighting one word: Gratitude. Our staff has profound gratitude to our visitors, donors, and volunteers because (goodness gracious) we’re open! After two years of restoration during almost four years of dormancy, we opened for tours on May 27th, 2022. Visitors have been buying tickets and showing up since day one. We’re showing guests the ongoing restoration and preservation efforts and they’ve been loving it. We’ve tried to create an upbeat tour highlighting a variety of interests: photography, architecture, restoration, landscape design, Midwestern history, human failures and triumphs, literature, electricity, archival strategy, scientific implements, and of course, astronomy.

What’s surprised me the most is seeing adults, yes adults, leave the tours full of happiness and awe. We adults know we can get jaded and hard to impress as the years go by, but this new style of observatory tours we’ve created seems to be delighting grown folks. Being together with twenty-five people you don’t know who are smiling, laughing, interacting, and being collectively wowed is an inspiring thing. Simply put, that’s made me feel so good. Our visitors have been quite demonstrative in expressing how neat it is to walk these peculiar spaces, to learn about how Yerkes helped humans discover and understand the cosmos, and to see how skilled construction crews from many fields have brought the campus back to life. One of my favorite dynamics is when someone will say something like, “Oh, I’ve seen it. We were here ten years ago. We know what we’re going to see but we wanted to show a friend.” As we move inside, it delights me to see their surprised faces when they witness the new performance spaces, refurbished libraries, exhibits, meticulous restoration of the marble walls and terrazzo floors, new colors, ongoing masonry projects, custom furniture, and so many more wonders of metamorphosis. Even the new washrooms are masterpieces!

And we have new stories, my friends. We have 125 years of history from which we can draw, but there’s also the stories never told, the stories of Yerkes almost becoming a subdivision or resort, the stories of our preservation experts, the stories of our new staff, and the stories of the heroes who made sure Yerkes Observatory would come alive again. We need to raise so much more money and we have several years of work to do on the building and grounds, but we’re chippin’ away. So after showing thousands of people the restored classic spaces and the hidden spaces the public has never seen, I have gratitude for all of you who bought tickets and donated to the awakening of this universal landmark. I say thanks to y’all every single day from the steps overlooking the South Lawn. Thank you.

— Walt

Welcome Dr. Amanda Bauer