History of the Haggart Observatory

Located at the John Inskeep Environmental Learning Center of Clackamas Community College, Oregon City, Oregon and managed by the Rose City Astronomers

The Haggart Observatory is named for Harold Haggart, a long-time resident of the Oregon City area and one-time professional telescope builder. As part of his life-long interest in astronomy, he constructed a personal observatory (originally called the Oregon Trail Observatory) attached to his residence which housed a sophisticated telescope of his own design and making.

Before his death in 1984 he sold the telescope to the City of Portland. In May, 1988, Mr. Haggart's widow, Darcy Haggart, completed negotiations with Clackamas Community College (CCC) for the donation of the dome and dome drive assembly. The dome and drive, constructed in 1948 by Mr. Haggart, features hand-cut and crimped wedge-shaped wall pieces, and still is weather tight and in perfect working order.

Construction of the Haggart Observatory began in the summer of 1988 within the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) on the CCC campus. Lee Engineering of Oregon City designed the basic structure as a public service project. Coast Crane of Portland donated the use of a crane to lift the dome onto a truck for transport to CCC.

Design details of the observatory underwent many changes even as the structure was being built. The result is an observing area 45 feet above the ground (to put it above the level of trees on the ELC grounds) reached by a circular stairway and surrounded by a 6 foot wide deck. A total of 32 steps in the stairway were "sold" for $250 to donors to cover construction costs. The name of each buyer is inscribed on a step riser. The Observatory was finished and opened to the public in time to view a partial solar eclipse on March 7, 1989.

In 1999, rotting timbers were discovered in the main deck structure. The observatory was subsequently closed to the public for major renovation. Nearly two years later, the observatory re-opened. Thanks to over $160,000 in donations from local businesses and individuals, the deck structure, warming hut, and stairs were rebuilt. Harold Haggart's original dome still rests atop the new structure.

There are really two structures nested inside each other that make up the Observatory. The main structure, comprising the dome, observation deck, and stairway, is supported on a ring of eight power poles. The second structure is a concrete pier located in the center of the Observatory that supports only the telescope. These two structures never touch, keeping the telescope steady even when people are walking around and causing the main structure to vibrate or sway.

Recycling and Sustainable Building At the Observatory

Recycled materials were used extensively in both the original construction and the renovation.

  • The supporting power poles were salvaged from a Portland General Electric substation in Welches and transported to the site by ELC staff.

  • Most of the original framing timbers in the main structure were recovered from the burned remains of the old Smuckers Jelly Cannery (now the site of the Clackamas Community College Art Building).

  • The flooring in the dome and metal struts supporting the telescope mount came from bleachers discarded by CCC.

  • The deck hand railing is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic (milk jugs!).

  • The spiral stair rails are a plastic/wood chip hybrid.

  • The new deck is steel; the warming hut is sided with corrugated steel.

  • The flooring in the lower room is made from shredded and recycled tires.