AboutObservatory History

Observatory History

Since the doors opened in 1935, Griffith Observatory has become the most-visited public observatory in the world. The Observatory’s history starts with the vision of one man and reflects the invention, innovation, and inspiration that also characterize Los Angeles.

Observatory north doors

The History of Griffith Observatory

The inspiration for the Observatory and for Griffith Park came from Griffith J. Griffith who was the benefactor for both. The idea of a “public observatory” was a very new one at the turn of the 20th century, but Griffith developed very precise specifications regarding what should be included in the building. From 1935-2002, the Observatory provided southern Californians and visitors from around the world with chances to observe, to learn, and to be inspired. Griffith’s vision for the building was updated and enhanced when the Observatory was renovated and expanded from 2002-2006. Since reopening after renovation, the Observatory has reached increasingly larger audiences, both in-person, online, and through media and film. In 2020, the Observatory celebrated its 85th anniversary.

Observatory Illustration

Observatory History

1896-2002

While Griffith Observatory opened in 1935, the first concept of the Observatory emerged decades earlier. In 1904, Griffith J. Griffith had a profound experience observing through Mount Wilson Observatory’s 60-inch telescope and decided there needed to be a public observatory in Los Angeles so people could share in his transformative moment of observing. For over 76 years, the Observatory realized his vision for tens of millions of people and became an icon of Los Angeles.

Renovation and Expansion of Griffith Observatory

2002-2006

As early as 1978, public and private officials recognized 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 ensure the Observatory would continue its mission 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. When the doors reopened to the public on November 3, 2006, the renewed Observatory once again took its place on the world stage.