The Observatory

The second-oldest building on campus

withstands the challenges of time

Built in 1882, Pioneer Hall has led a continued reign as the oldest building on campus. But the second-oldest building has faced the threat of demolition a few times and has also been moved to different locations around campus.

The Observatory, built in 1883-1844, now stands near Withnell Commons. The Observatory has a long history along with different reincarnations, from an actual observatory to a convenience store to a place for student bands to practice.

“The money for the construction [of the Observatory] came from A.W. Kinney who was an early member of the Board of Trustees and helped raise money for Pioneer Hall also,” said Rich Schmidt, director of resource sharing. “The original cost was $2,500.”

For the first years of its life, the Observatory served its original astronomical purpose. Its initial location was in what is now called the Quad where a majority of the academic buildings are. The move to its current home on the off side of campus occurred after a student protest saved it from demolition in the early 1960s.

“Its location has moved several times,” said Allison Horn, director of auxiliary services. “Legend has it that one of the moves involved the entire football team to move it from one place to the other.”

A thesis essay by Katherine Pitman-Huit, a 1988 alumna, said that the Observatory was pulled by hand and placed observatoryon top of a trucking platform, under this were rolling logs that transported the building.

If the Observatory had been demolished, the telescope would have been integrated into Graf Hall.

Though the protests kept the Observatory from being demolished, the telescope was still put into storage.

“It remained a working observatory until 2001, when it underwent a renovation and the telescope was removed,” Horn said. “It has served a number of purposes over the years, from a convenience store to its current use as a music practice place for students.”

The telescope was removed because of light pollution from McMinnville and other cities. The brightness made the stars difficult to see, but any attempts to demolish it have failed.

“The students protested—mainly through The [Linfield] Review—feeling that it should be preserved for its historical value, since it was the second-oldest building on campus and both a popular spot for students and a unique thing for a small Baptist college in McMinnville to have,” Schmidt said.

In its current reincarnation, the Observatory serves as a place for student bands to practice.

“The key for [the Observatory] can be checked out from the library circulation desk after a bit of paperwork. It has allowed student bands a place to practice and not disturb their neighbors on campus.  The college had a need for all of the student bands on campus to have a place that they could practice about five years ago and the Observatory was identified as that space. A good deal of amazing music has been the direct results of that space for students,” said Dan Fergueson, director of college activities.

There aren’t too many plans for the Observatory in the future, but it seems to be doing well as it is. Fergueson has heard a few things about it becoming home for the Sustainability Office but nothing is concrete with the Observatory.

Gilberto Galvez/Features editor

Gilberto Galvez can be reached at

The Observatory stands beside the Withnell Commons. It reached its current location in 1964.

Rosa Johnson/Copy editor