Field Memorial Observatory

Perhaps one of the most exotic examples of architecture at Williams was the second observatory constructed in 1882. This unique example of North Italian Renaissance design, and its equipment, was a memorial gift from David Dudley Field (Class of 1825) in honor of his son, an 1850 graduate. The sheet-iron building was placed on a “eminence” southwest of the lab campus on five acres purchased by the college. The location was selected so that there would not be trees on the horizon to obstruct its view. It housed a new Repsold & Son Meridian Circle, which was fitted with all the very latest improvements. Sheet iron was selected for the building due to the fact that it was then believed that iron kept an equal temperature for the delicate instruments. Besides the observing room, the building contained two other rooms which were fitted for the occupancy of an assistant. Over the years the building fell into disrepair. Some of the equipment was removed in 1908 and what remained was removed in 1927, when the site was sold and the observatory demolished.