Mt. Princeton Observatory – Colorado

Buena Vista, Colorado

Summer, 2002, I built a new home for my Celestron 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain. “Mt. Princeton Observatory” is located on a wide open and dark 35 acres at 8,450 feet elevation. It is situated at the foot of its namesake, 14,197-foot Mt. Princeton in Buena Vista, Colorado. Yes, the awesome land mass to the southwest does cause objects to set a little earlier than they might otherwise, but it is not a serious problem. The absence of light pollution and the otherwise 360-degree views makes this a dream location for some serious viewing and imaging.

The observatory is a modified roll-off roof design. It is modified in the sense that the roof and the complete sidewalls roll back over a stationary control room. This eliminates the need for a superstructure to hold the roof when it is in the rolled back position.

Click images for full size    

Design & Construction

Most of the framing sections were built in my garage-workshop. The completed sections were then hauled out to the pad about 100 yards from the house.





The entire structure was erected on a 13′ x 21′ x 6″ thick concrete pad. This flies in the face of the concept that the telescope pier should be on a foundation that is isolated from the rest of the observatory floor. But for simplicity of construction, I wanted the entire movable section to roll right on the concrete pad, so I went with it. It has since proven to be a quite stable base for the pier. Here, my wife rests on the pad in anticipation of the construction which is about to commence.




The framing sections for the fixed structure were bolted directly to the concrete pad. The onboard generator of the motorhome in the background was used as a temporary power source for operating tools. Power was later run to the observatory.




Next, the stationary walls of the observatory and control room were enclosed. The observatory is oriented due north-south. The totally enclosed control room is on the north end. Four-foot high walls surround the telescope enclosure to the south.






Six wheels were mounted to the bottom of each of the rolling side wall sections. The side wall frame was then positioned on the pad outside the stationary walls.






Rafters were added, and the rolling superstructure covering the telescope room was now operational.










Apply walls and a roof to the rolling section, and we are almost there.






Ideally, I would have had a sloped roof but I went with a flat one for two reasons.

  • We are in a semi-arid climate that doesn’t get lots of rain and snow, and more importantly …
  • I work in marketing, not construction. I wanted it simple.

The roof was covered with a white rubberized material designed for waterproofing RVs. This material went on easily, and to date, there have been no problems with roof leakage.



A hinged drop panel was added to the south side. When folded up, it closes the structure up tight. But dropped down, it allows a south view down to the horizon.





The Finished Structure

Thanks go to my wife, Leigh, and my brother, Don, who spent a considerable amount of their spare time this summer helping me with this project.