The Griffith Observatory is probably the most recognized and beloved building on Los Angeles, at least to locals, and an interesting online article we housesellers came across recently made us aware of some interesting facts about the building and grounds that we didn't know about. For example, did you know that Griffith J. Griffith, the man who spearheaded the project and who also created Griffith Park in 1896, was an unwelcomed figured in LA who went to jail for shooting his wife in the head. Griffith, who drank as much as 2 quarts of whiskey a day, had come to believe that his wife was conspiring with the Pope to poison him and steal his money. She survived, but her subsequent request for a divorce in front of the courts was granted in less than 5 minutes--arguably the fasted divorce proceeding in LA history. 

Griffith was inspired by a visit to nearby Mount Wilson and became determined to build his own public observatory in Griffith Park. He offered the city $100,000 to build an observatory, but Griffith’s reputation was so bad that the city was not interested in taking more of his charity--at least not while he was alive. So, in his will he decided to leave a bequest totaling $750,000 for the construction of a free “Hall of Science” and Observatory atop the peak of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. He died in 1919. The Depression made the construction of Griffith Observatory possible, with building materials and labor cheap and plentiful. The builders resolved “that in every possible instance, they would use materials obtainable in Los Angeles or the vicinity, thus aiding local industry and employment.” 

On May 14, 1935, the domed structure, designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley and compared by one Los Angeles Times journalist to “the magic work of a genie,” opened with a crowd of 500 of the city's elite watching as Mayor Frank L. Shaw accepted the building from the Griffith Estate on behalf of the city. The planetarium inside Griffith Observatory was just the third in the U.S., behind Chicago and Philadelphia, and it was reported that around 18,000 people crowded the halls of the Observatory the first week it was open. Btw, Griffith, who referred to himself as "Colonel" (despite being born in Wales and never having served in the military) is also responsible for the Greek Theatre, which you may be surprised to learn celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.