Mount Lowe Observatory and Darkroom

Thaddeus Lowe was always fascinated with the atmosphere, wind, clouds and how they might influence man; particularly when it came to balloon travel. Following the Civil War and the balloon recon work he did for the Union Army, Lowe continued to have an interest in astronomy. In 1894 he managed to bring Professor Lewis Swift from the Warner Observatory in New York, along with his Alvan Clark telescope. Upon arrival, Swift made numerous discoveries from the newly established Lowe Observatory above Echo Mountain, not far from the Mount Lowe Railway’s Alpine Division.

This 5″ by 8″ unmounted, undated photo by the Special View Company shows the observatory and dome, as well as the newly constructed wing to the right. Eventually this wing would house a darkroom, used not only by the resident astronomers, but later by Charles Lawrence, official photographer of the Pacific Electric Railway. The PE purchased the Mount Lowe line in 1902 and incorporated it into their nearly 1,100 miles of track throughout Southern California.

Michael Patris Collection

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