Underground Telescope Museum

James Hartness and the Turret Telescope

Hartness Telescope Springfield VT

The Hartness House Inn is home to a unique piece of history, and a fun exploration activity, our underground tunnels and Telescope Museum.

James Hartness’ interest in astronomy and flight adds another dimension to his colorful personality. On the front lawn to the left of our entrance can be seen the Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope, built in 1910. It was one of the first tracking telescopes in America. In 1908, Hartness began designing his telescope. He designed what is known as a coude (elbow) telescope. In this system, the light is bent 90 degrees to the eyepiece by a prism at the base of the telescope tube. It is this design which allows the observer the comfort of a heated room and puts the telescope tube outside and away from the warm air. John A. Brashear supplied Hartness with the optics for his telescope. The object lens is 10-inches in diameter, magnifies images 600 times and has a 150-inch focal length. To build a tracking telescope, Hartness pointed the middle of his turret (dome) at the North Star, creating a polar axis. The turret rotates along the same angle as the plane of the equator. This east- to-west movement of the turret counteracts the west-to-east rotation of the earth and gives the telescope the illusion of tracking a star; actually, it is the earth which is moving not the star.

Inside the observatory, a one-half horsepower electric motor activates the drive shaft. The drive shaft turns the gears which move the three and one-half ton turret along the equatorial plane. Movement along this plane is called right ascension and is measured in hours of time on a sidereal click. A sidereal day is the length of time it takes a star to return to the same position in the sky from the viewer’s vantage point.

The telescope tube points, or declinates, north and south of the equator. This enable the observer to focus on any celestial object that can be seen in full on a clear night.

James Hartness Russell Porter Astronomy Museum

Springfield Telescope Museum

The Stellafane organization, together with the Hartness House, host the Hartness Russell Porter Amateur Astronomy Museum in James Hartness’ former underground work area. The museum occupies 3 rooms in the Hartness underground work area and contains hundreds of exhibits related to amateur astronomy; telescope making; Russell Porter artwork, drawing, and schematics; telescopes from the early-1900’s; astronomical lens and mirror making; and photographs of the early 1900’s of Springfield and the Hartness House.

Russell Porter is featured throughout the museum for his achievements as founder of the Springfield Telescope Makers Association; his expeditions to Mt. McKinley and the North Pole; his artwork and paintings and drawings; his inventions like the Porter Garden Telescope, on display in the museum; and his work on the Hale Observatory on Mount Palomar in California. The museum also features the Russell Porter drawings he made of the Hale Observatory. Porter’s drawings show the cut-away views of the observatory’s construction which clearly show its operation.

The museum contains several excellent examples of amateur telescope making with exhibits of telescopes from 1900’s to 1950’s. Several of the notable exhibits are shown here.

Frank Whitney was one of the early members of the Springfield Telescope Making Association, the forerunner of the Stellafane Organization. The museum contains several of Frank’s telescopes and telescope making kits and equipment.

Explore the Famous Underground Tunnels &
Historic Telescope Museum

We offer Tunnel & Telescope Tours daily, which are included in your stay. The tour last approximately 15 minutes and takes you down below the inn to the underground tunnels built by James Hartness. You will walk down two dark tunnels, eventually ending up at the Telescope Museum.

The Stellafane organization, together with the Hartness House, host the Hartness Russell Porter Amateur Astronomy Museum in James Hartness’ former underground work area. The museum occupies 3 rooms in the Hartness underground work area and contains hundreds of exhibits related to amateur astronomy; telescope making; Russell Porter artwork, drawing, and schematics; telescopes from the early-1900’s; astronomical lens and mirror making; and photographs of the early 1900’s of Springfield and the Hartness House.

Please check with our Front Desk for current daily tour times!