A photograph from 1992 shows a bust of Charles Yerkes in the observatory library. Photo by Dan Plutchak

WILLIAMS BAY — Four years after the University of Chicago closed its historic observatory in Williams Bay, the public will once again be able to witness its history when tours resume Friday, May 27, 2022.

Admission for the tours ranges from $38 for adults to $16 for children 10-18.

Tours Friday are at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for the Space and Spaces Tour.

The other tour is the Director’s Hidden Spaces tour, an hour and a half experience led by the Executive Director or our Director of Programs. Those tours take place Fridays beginning in June.


Yerkes Observatory was completed in 1897 by the University of Chicago and housed its astrophysics department for more than 120 years. Many famous physicists and scientists, including Albert Einstein, worked and visited the observatory over the years.

Officials from the University of Chicago closed the observatory in 2018, then donated the facility and 50 acres of surrounding property to members of the Yerkes Future Foundation in 2020.

After substantial restoration work, it is reopening with a new mission of educational programs.

Friday’s tour includes includes the Hagenah Rotunda, Great Dome and Great Refractor, the research library, the Ann M. Drake Library, and a peek beneath the Dome floor.

This tour lasts one hour and fifteen minutes.

All ticket proceeds and donations go to the preservation and restoration of this international landmark of science, architecture, and landscape design. 


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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak launched Walworth County Community News in 2021. He is the former editor of The Week and Walworth County Sunday.