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Eugene Lowman, in a photo dated 3/18/61
Eugene Lowman, a local industrialist and co-founder of New Century Homes originally built the observatory to house a 12 1/2" Newtonian telescope that he had constructed. The scope was originally permanently mounted on a pier, and covered with a tarp to protect it from the weather, in his yard on Salisbury Street hill across from the water tank. This was before many commercially made telescopes of that size were available and therefore was custom made. The electric clock drive was constructed by an amateur machinist, Bob Bates, in his basement shop at his home in Lafayette.
When Lowman built a new home overlooking the Wabash River he ordered a modified silo top dome to enclose the telescope in an observatory. For some reason that we don't know, he decided to build the observatory on the grounds of the future Cumberland Elementary School and donate it to the West Lafayette School District for use by the school system, Purdue University, and the public.
When the Purdue Physics Department became dissatisfied with the old 12 1/2", a replacement was sought. WVAS members were consulted and they recommended that the scope be replaced with a Celestron 14" scope, at that time the largest commercially available Schmidt-Cassegrain. This suggestion was followed and the C-14 was ordered and installed.
The Celestron 14" had electronic problems that were severe enough that a Byers drive was retrofitted to it. It served Purdue for a number of years before being replaced by the present 16" Meade LX200.
The Meade LX200 serves the research and educational needs of the university today and is used by WVAS during our public outreach events.
Original scope in the dome cira Spring 1967
(Photo from Richard McCormick)