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Yerkes Observatory


Williams Bay, WI 
Website | Phone: (917) 572-2426   

Mission - A landmark in Williams Bay for over 100 years, Yerkes Observatory is known globally as the birthplace of modern astrophysics and remains the home to the world’s largest refracting telescope. The building--itself a marvel of period architecture--is surrounded by 50 acres of grounds designed by the legendary firm Olmsted and Olmsted.  In 2020, the locally-based Yerkes Future Foundation assumed long-term stewardship for preserving and expanding the Observatory from the University of Chicago.  The community-based Foundation is currently leading a campaign to restore the Observatory and maximize its potential to contribute to both global research and local educational initiatives.    Founded by renowned astronomer George Ellery Hale, renowned astronomers and scientists who have walked the observatory’s halls include Edwin Hubble, Otto Struve, Gerard Kuiper, Carl Sagan, NASA's first Chief of Astronomy and trailblazer for women in science Nancy Grace Roman, and Nobel prize-winners Albert Einstein and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. 

Community Resources - The Observatory, while currently undergoing restoration and renovation to prepare it for its next century as a landmark of the Geneva Lake region, has long offered educational partnerships with area grade schools, hosted high school and college interns and STEAM programs for middle- and high-school students across Wisconsin and Illinois, and launched dozens of local children into careers in science, research and astronomy. These programs--and many more for adults and families alike--as well as research in astronomy and astrophysics will be returning as the Observatory re-opens to the public in 2021 and transforms its mission and programs over the coming years.

Most Urgent Need - The Yerkes Future Foundation is renovating the 124-year old Observatory including brick restoration and conservation, renovation of the interiors, and restoration of the Olmsted-designed landscape in preparation for re-opening the Observatory to the public in 2022 and restoring its mission of astronomy research over the coming years. Your support is critical to realizing its future!