On Friday a friend turned me on to the Warner and Swasey Observatory as a bit of urban decay to explore, and on Saturday while my oldest children were off having maple adventures in Burton with their grandparents we put our coats on, grabbed our cameras and our youngest and headed out to explore.
I’m not originally from Cleveland, so there are plenty of interesting spaces that are new adventures for me, the Observatory is one such place. It was named after Worcester Warner and Ambrose Swasey, who, as far as I can tell were some real over-achievers.
Not only were they mechanical engineers, they were both astronomers, and built a machine making business together. When they retired they became trustees for the Case School of Applied Science and built the two domed observatory for the school in 1919.
But then light pollution made it all but useless. I have heard that it was amazing in its day. That people have fond memories of walking to the building on field trips when they were young, before the building was abandoned in the early 80s.
An attempt was made once by new owners to restore and transform it into a residence. I can imagine what an amazing house it could be with it’s almost maze like halls leading to little rooms and stairways on either side. But that fell apart like many house restoration attempts in Cleveland and elsewhere and so it sits empty.
In the summer the ivy claims the exterior of the building, covering the brick like a blanket. The inside of the building houses all manor of activity from the looks of it. Spray paint abounds. It’s just the kind of place one might assume would turn into a drug den, easy enough to slip into and hide out unnoticed for a time. Here I can imagine late night parties with glow sticks and waving arms and minds lost to the music. At least until someone nearby calls the cops.
It was a police cruiser that called our own exploration to a halt. We didn’t quite get finished, hadn’t yet gone up to the more dilapidated and intricately spray painted observation tower yet before a cruiser came by to see what mischief we were up to.
But that’s okay, that just means there’s more to see on our next trip over.