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Saturday, July 21, 2007

-----The Ovilla Observatory----

n 32 degrees 32.226' w 096 degrees 52.451' elevation 712 feet

Back in the early 1950's the Texas Astronomical Society decided to build an observatory. Without the interference from the city lights, Ovilla was a prime spot to view the starry night sky. . So they chose a nice field in Ovilla to build it. It's believed the land was donated for the Astronomical Society's use by the land owner who at the time was Clarence Hosford. The Dallas Times Herald referred to the land as "Hosford Hill." The area chosen in Ovilla also has an elevation equivalent to Cedar Hill(The highest point in Dallas County.) My etrex GPS says it's around 712 feet above sea level.

President of the Texas Astronomical Society, Ernest M. Brewer, designed the building. In March of 1956 Mr Langford and Mr Brewer broke ground. The members built the observatory under the Mr Brewer's guidance. The lower body is made of what looks like cinder blocks laid in a "circular pattern." The blocks were supported by a concrete floor. Roof was a conical shape and rested on a metal rail that allowed the roof to rotate. This was needed to view different parts of the sky. It had a door for the the telescope that they could close for protection against the elements. It also had some complicated counter balances and gears to allow the roof too move according to the earth's rotation so the heavenly bodies would stay in view of telescope.

This was a watershed time for Astronomy in US History and World History. Sputnik would be launched October 4, 1957. In the movie October Sky you could see the inspiration and wonder of the people who saw Sputnik cross their sky. Some feared this Soviet triumph. My mother remembers fearing a Soviet attack from outer space. So this observatory was built in an inspirational time for astronomers, professional and amateur alike. This was the begining of the Space Race.

Now the property is owned by Wade and Marilyn Reed. It is called the Bright Star Ranch. They have preserved the building but it has a shingle roof now and there are no inner workings. I imagined it to be a little bigger.

It is being used to store feed. It is private property, but can be viewed from the road in front of a rod iron gate with a longhorn image on it. There is enough room for two cars to park in front of the gate. Carolyn Miracle, President of the Ovilla History, allowed Mr Reed to scan the Ovilla History Book's story on the observatory where all my information was obtained. I encourage you to read it. Just click on the Bright Star Ranch link above. Very interesting part about a Dallas Times Herald article that reported "15,000" people came to Hosford Hill to view Mars through multiple telescopes set up in the field. I also encourage you to buy the Ovilla History Book. There is a link on this blog on the sidebar on how to get the book.

Note: I would like to thank Jeff Johnson for taking the pictures for this post. He also brought to my attention that the top picture has the moon at the top. Looks like a star. Good Job Jeff!


Mark Pusateri said...

Fantastic job! This is the best local history blog I have seen. I will be linking to you frequently at

Creeker said...

Thank you! I appreciate the link. I am hoping that if I can also get input from others it will be even more infromative.

Glenn said...

As a member of the Texas Astronomical Soceity of Dallas it was a surprize to find this write up on the Ovilla Observatory. From looking at your site I am impress with the information you have posted. I am currently working on a small article on E. M. Brewer for the soceities newsletter and I want to include the information and pictures you have posted on the obseratory. Could I get permission to use this information?

Glenn Fitzgerald

Creeker said...

The pictures and info are fine to use. My friend Jeff Johnson took the pictures for me. The info was gathered from the Ovilla, Texas History Book pages 269-270. The article was submitted by Mr Melvin Brewer July 22, 1994. The Ovilla Historical Society put the book together. The President Carolyn Miracle use to sell them for $40 but I think Sims Library in Waxahachie has a copy.