What’s believed to be the oldest observatory in Iowa will remain open for public and academic use. The Drake Municipal Observatory in Des Moines’ Waveland Park was threatened with closure as Drake University reorganized. Drake President David Maxwell says the historic structure is being saved.The Observatory opened in 1921 and features art deco architecture and a 105-year-old fully operational main telescope inside its dome. There are two other newer scopes on the facility’s roof. Dr. Maxwell says some of the technology may be outdated at the Observatory, but it’s a one-of-a-kind.Drake, Iowa’s largest private college, is eliminating two-dozen faculty jobs as it cuts 29 of its 118 academic programs. After some manipulation, Dr. Maxwell says fewer than 50 undergraduates are now facing the “phase out” of their majors out of 32-hundred undergrads.The Observatory is being spared thanks to a 150-thousand dollar donation being announced today. The money is from Des Moines philanthropist Maddie Levitt who is on the Drake Board of Trustees. Maxwell says the Observatory needs 220-thousand dollars worth of work.
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