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Griffith Observatory

MISSION: Griffith Observatory inspires everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.

Griffith Observatory is an icon of Los Angeles, a national leader in public astronomy, a beloved civic gathering place, and one of southern California's most popular attractions. The Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. It is 1,134 feet above sea level and is visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin. The Observatory is the best vantage point for observing the world-famous Hollywood Sign.

Griffith Observatory is a free-admission, public facility owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks in the middle of an urban metropolis of ten million people. The Observatory is one of the most popular informal education facilities in the United States and the most-visited public observatory in the world (with 1.5 million visitors a year). Griffith Observatory is a unique hybrid of public observatory, planetarium, and exhibition space. It was constructed with funds from the bequest of Griffith J. Griffith (who donated the land for Griffith Park in 1896), who specified the purpose, features, and location of the building in his 1919 will. Upon completion of construction in 1935, the Observatory was given to the City of Los Angeles with the provision that it be operated for the public with no admission charge. When it opened in 1935, it was one of the first institutions in the U.S. dedicated to public science and possessed the third planetarium in the U.S.

Since opening, the Observatory has welcomed over 81 million visitors. Open late nearly every evening, Griffith Observatory's audience is “the general public,” and it is one of the rare places where you will see people from every part of the region and from all parts of the world.

Fulfilling the Observatory’s goal of “visitor as observer,” free public telescope viewing is available each evening skies are clear and the building is open. More people (8 million) have looked through the Observatory’s Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope than through any other on Earth. More than 17 million have seen a live program in the Observatory’s Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

The building operated continuously from 1935 until January 6, 2002, when it closed for a comprehensive renovation and expansion. This ambitious $93-million project renewed the Observatory's world-class standing and restored and enhanced the Observatory's ability to pursue its public astronomy mission, all driven by a commitment to excellence and enabled by a successful public-private partnership between the City of Los Angeles and Friends Of The Observatory. Four goals guided all planning for the project: 1. Renovate all elements of the existing building; 2. Develop a state-of-the-art, immersive planetarium environment; 3. Expand public space to improve the visitor experience; and 4. Design and develop an inspiring new exhibit program. The renewed building reopened to the public on November 2, 2006.

An early, rejected architectural rendering done for the architectural firm of John C. Austen and Frederick Ashley, ca. 1933 © Griffith Observatory

A History of Griffith Observatory

Exploring the Observatory's past starts with namesake Griffith J. Griffith, whose plan for a public observatory was as visionary as it was audacious. From Griffith's bequest in 1919 to the Observatory's dedication on May 14, 1935, the story shifts to the astronomers, architects, and public leaders who made his vision to reality. From 1935 - 2002, the Observatory welcomed 70 million visitors and became the world's leader in public astronomy, a story told in the context of the building's four Directors.

The faces of the great astronomers are carefully restored during the renovation of Griffith Observatory's Astronomers Monument. © Griffith Observatory

Renovation and Expansion

As early as 1978, public and private officials recognized that the Observatory's future would depend on a concerted effort to restore the existing building and expand it to improve the experience for the vast audiences who visited each year. Guided by a 1990 Master Plan, the City of Los Angeles and non-profit Friends Of The Observatory crafted a unique public-private partnership to renew the Observatory for generations to come. The building closed to the public on January 6, 2002, to begin this work. A world-class team of architects, exhibit designers, astronomy experts, construction workers, exhibit fabricators, instrument and equipment builders, and many others worked carefully and expertly for four years to return Griffith Observatory to the people of Los Angeles and beyond.