GRIFFITH OBSERVATORYOVERLOOKING LOS ANGELES
THE RENOWNED INDUSTRIALIST AND PHILANTHROPIST, WHO HAD EMIGRATED FROM WALES TO THE UNITED STATES IN HIS TEENAGE YEARS, SOUGHT TO ELEVATE THE LIVING QUALITY OF HIS ADOPTED CITY BY PROVIDING ITS RESIDENCE WITH A ‘PLACE TO REST AND RELAX’ AWAY FROM THE CITY.
When Griffith Jenkins Griffith purchased the land on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in 1882, he envisioned bringing a park of European grandeur to Los Angeles. The renowned industrialist and philanthropist, who had emigrated from Wales to the United States in his teenage years, sought to elevate the living quality of his adopted city by providing its residence with a ‘place to rest and relax’ away from the city. Today, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America, spanning over 4000 acres; it covers the eastern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains.
An avid amateur astronomer, Griffith had long been impressed by a visit to the Astronomical Section of the Southern California Academy of Sciences. In 1912, he pledged 100,000 USD to the city of Los Angeles to build an observatory on the peak of Mount Hollywood in a bid to make science more accessible to the public. Under the instruction of George Ellery Hale, who had led the construction of the telescopes at Palomar Observatories and Mount Wilson, the Griffith Observatory was built by John C Austin and Frederick M Ashley over a two year period and opened in 1935.
At the time of its creation, the ravages of The Great Depression had dramatically reduced the price of building materials, allowing its builders to use the finest resources to assemble an enduring basic structure and to furnish its snowy white exterior with an array of elegant decorations including a Greek key pattern cast directly into the concrete and copper covered domes. The building is split up into six sections, each dedicated to a certain element of astronomical education. Perhaps the highlight of these exhibition spaces is the Wilder Hall of the Eye, which features a Tesla Coil.
From its terraces, the great, dusty sprawl of Los Angeles can be observed; white corral buildings rise out of the haze, palm trees stir idly in the breeze, and as the sun drops over the horizon, the vista is bathed in dark rusty light. From the restless bustle of downtown to the clear azure blue of the Pacific, Griffith’s Observatory is, perhaps, the ideal place to take in the city.