PHOTOESSAY OF THE HAYDEN PLANETARIUM - 00-09 of 60 ------------------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2000 May 10
SESSION 0 - INTRODUCTION ---------------------- This series of 59 articles was written in 1997-2000, before the birth of NYSkies. They chronicle the demolition of the old Hayden Planetarium in New York and the construction of the new Rose Center for Earth and Space. They report on my visits to the site, 81st Street and Central Park West on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The articles are grouped 10x10 for ease of reading as HP00-09, ..., HP50-59. I lightly edited the original pieces, mostly to remove typos, otherwise they are the ones posted into the sci.astro.* newsgroups during 1997-2000. The date of this compilation is the date of the last article. At each visit, photos were taken of the works, some described in the text, but not included in this compilation The pictures were chemophotos, not yet converted to digital form for computer use. My visits to the Planetarium were mostly during weekdays when it was possible to go and return within a time comparable to a regular lunch break. Some visits were on weekends either from my home in Brooklyn or my housesitting place on Manhattan. It was immensely wonderful to record the removal of the old and placement of the new facility. This was one of the very rare chances an astronomer has to witness a planetarium in the making. It was also a chance for me to watch a complete demolition/construction project continuously from start to finish. 'Association' in the articles refers to Amateur Astronomers Association, a major astronomy club prominent in the 20th century, that used Museum and Planetarium services. I was an active member of that club during this photoessay project. 'Square', 'master plan', and similar refer to the original design for the Museum campus. The Museum was planned to be a gigantic square structure, about 200 meters on the side, with four quadrants. Only the south face was completed under this plan. The quadrants were open well to let light and air to the halls. Over the years these were filled in with new structures, including both the old and new Planetarium.
SESSION 1 - 1997 MARCH 8 ---------------------- I began my photoessay of the Hayden Planetarium on Saturday 8 March 1997. This is a three-year program to document the removal of the old building and the construction of the new one. The weather was mild, breezy, and cloudy. The clouds made it immaterial where I took pictures from due to the absence of hard shadows and the overall even illumination of the structure. The Planetarium is shuttered with the front doors blocked out with paper sheets. Signs directed visitors to activities, including the laser lightshows, in the adjacent Museum. Signs on the front face between the doors warned against trespassing. All the while I was on the site, from 13:30 thru 14:15, a continual stream of visitors stopped at the Planetarium and were surprised to find it closed. They were on the whole couples and families. Apparently few heard of the closure. Most of the visitors emerged from the subway station or the bus stop at the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street, with the rest walking in from the surrounding territory. The front apron, with the bronze swirlly 'galaxies' is all broken up and covered with fresh plywood. The general area around the front doors is littered with loose street and park debris, much of which stuck in the bushes. There seems to have been no general tidying up for many days or even weeks. The adjacent carpark was filled to overflowing with visitors for the Museum and the circulation of vehicles there did impede my photography of the west flank of the Planetarium. No construction sheds, machinery, materials were on the site. No waste piles or dumpsters were around the area. There was no obvious tracking of dirt or dust as from movement of materials about the site. There were broken curbs, car-rutted dirt, and puddling of mud along the driveway leading to and from 81st Street, but these are longstanding features. There was a large cargo trailer parked at the rear entrance to the Museum (where the Planetarium, Museum, and carpark abut), as if awaiting loading or unloading. The gatetender at this entry said the trailer was for some delivery for the Museum. The exterior of the Planetarium is intact with no markings or blemishes from demolition. All the brickwork, window panes, other fittings remain in place. The security lamps atop the building seemed undisturbed. There were no flags on the two flagpoles in the front apron. However, the raising of flags, for the United States and the City of New York, has always been a haphazard practice. There is a scaffold-like zigzag, almost like a fire escape, stairway from the ground level in the carpark to the roof. This was in place for some time and probably is unrelated to the demolition. It is only ample and strong enough for single people to climb with hand tools or materials. No heavy material or equipment can go up these stairs. Thru gaps in the paper blocking on the front doors the interior was dark but apparently dusty. No lights were lighted in any of the windows, altho Association members attending an evening Museum lecture during the week noted lights on the second floor. Apparently all Planetarium offerings, except those requiring the theater of the stars itself, do continue in rooms within the Museum. These include the Planetarium's own lecture series (distinct from the Association's) and the astronomy classes. However, due to eventually sequestering of the land around the Planetarium for construction work, the Association suspended its starviewings following the Planetarium lectures.
SESSION 2 - 1997 MARCH 15 ----------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on 1997 March 15, Saturday, from 14:00 thru 14:30. The time spent was brief for there was not much new to document and my stomach's call for lunch get the better of me. The weather was cool, about 5C, breezy, and clear. A few harmless clouds dotted the sky. I repeatedly opened my jacket to get at my camera with no discomfort. Some readers asked how often I'll be stopping at the Planetarium and when they can look for these session reports. For the demolition, which should take but a few months, I'll try to swing by every week or two. Probably I'll start taking a longer lunch hour or leaving work early. The latter may be practical when we switch to daylight savings time in April so it stays light longer after regular closing hour at my office. Now this is not a set schedule, so please don't plotz just after the seventh day from my last session you still see no report posted. For the construction, to last until fall of 1999, monthly sessions should be enough. Also, being that I'm an astronomer, I will pass up detailed recording of the other Museum construction. This includes the bus garage, exhibit hall, and entry on Columbus Avenue. Yet other readers ask just where is the Planetarium so when they visit they may see it for themselves. Well, it is not within the 'tourist' district in midtown part of the City, so you can miss it on your own. From Midtown take a blue line (IND 8th Av) local to 81st St station. Exit at the 81st St end, not the 79th St (mislabelled 77th St) end. Take the stairs to the left of the token booth. When you step onto the sidewalk you will see the Planetarium at about the 10 o'clock heading. Follow the circular driveway down to it. The blue line connects in Midtown with the orange and red lines at Columbus Circle station. Be sure you board a uptown (the Washington Heights or the Bronx) local train, normally coming in on the track against the wall. If you by mistake get on an express train you will career right past 81st St and land at 125th St in the stead. To recover your routing, cross over to the downtown platform and board any (blue or orange) downtown local train. It will be a long haul back to 81st St. I also am numbering and dating the sessions. The very first one is session #1 on 1997 March 8. If you still have that one on disc you may patch in a heading similar to the one I have for this here session. Some readers of my first session, on 1997 March 8, were mixed up with my compass directions. I use Manhattan -- not geographic -- directions. The avenues, like Central Park West, run 29 degrees clockwise from due north and south. The streets, like 81st Street, run 29 degrees clockwise from due east and west. This is the cause of the legendary 'Stonehenge' effect at the summer solstice sunset and winter solstice sunrise. Think of 'north' as 'uptown'; 'south, 'downtown'; 'west', toward Central Park; 'west', toward Hudson River. The carpark was full and traffic within it interfered with my photography. A few drivers, seeing me skip around, asked if I needed help or was looking for some one. An other hindrance was the brilliant Sun. It shone down from near the Manhattan meridian to throw the north face of the Planetarium into shadow. The Sun also shone on my camera from most vantage points I sought out. By hiding in the (very thin) shadows of lamppoles and trees or by shading the lens with my free hand, I did get all the shots I needed. The most obvious new feature is a scaffolding placed atop the building partly encircling the dome. It is of the sort used for safety scarfs around the bases of new or renovated buildings around the City, but without the decking. The scaffolding extended from the the base to almost the vertex of the dome and surrounded it on the west and part of the north side. A new section seemed started on the south face. The other new feature is the condition of the front apron. The plywood sheets were weathered and partly warped from rain and sleet from previous days. The exposed part of the apron was broken and pitted. Closer inspection, for the first time on this session, revealed that the pits were spots where the bronze 'galaxies' were torn out and removed. They were still damp or puddled with rain while the surrounding level surface was dry. A construction camp is established in part of the park along the northwest corner of the carpark. It is walled in with plywood and safety swiss-cheese. My view inside was blocked by the plywood but there appeared to be no activity in it. A large sign attached to one of the plywood sheets near the carpark announced the planetarium project under the American Museum of Natural History and the American Museum Hayden Planetarium Authority. It could be read by people entering the carpark if they purposely looked to the right before picking up a parking card. Technicly the Planetarium is operated by a distinct entity from the Museum, but for all intents and purposes they function as a single unit. The two orgs have exactly congruent officers and staff. It is this separate legal aegis that allows the Planetarium to charge a regular admission fee while the Museum may not. A tread-mounted back hoe stood in the southwest corner of the carpark off the asphalt surface in turned up dirt. It was idle but apparently was there for at least the period of the recent rain. The treads looked as if washed of loose dirt by that rain. Tow truck trailers stood by the Museum entry in the southeast corner of the carpark, but there was no guard around to ask their purpose. I do not recall if one is the same one from last week. A continual stream of couples and families came to the Planetarium being unaware of its closing. This time, many stopped while still in the driveway because they saw the scaffolding on the dome and figured something was going on. Most, however, walked up to the doors and studied their signs. The area around the Planetarium is tidier than last week. There were no accumulations of litter. The litter baskets were loosely filled. There was some runoff of dirt and mud from the recent rain.
SESSION 3 - 1997 MARCH 17 ----------------------- A lunchtime errand brought to the Upper West Side so I stopped at the Planetarium to see what's going on. This, a Monday, is the first workday in my photoessay project and I believed I would see some action on the site. I was on site from 13:20 to 14:00, then I had to return to my office. The weather was cool, about 5C, windy, and overcast. Yet is was not unbearable to open my coat to work my camera. The cloudy sky allowed me to shoot the site from all angles. There was a workcrew on the front apron with a handheld jackhammer and tools. They were digging out more of the bronze swirlly designs out of the apron. Approach to them or the Planetarium was unchallenged both for me and the few people who passed by. The gouged out holes were still damp from recent rain but there was no longer puddling. There were only a few people who tried to enter the Planetarium. This would be normal on a weekday because there were no general public shows. The Planetarium during the weekday was set aside for school visits. In fact, there were two school buses in the carpark collecting children from a Museum visit during my session. The carpark was 1/3 to 1/2 full with little traffic. There was no interference with my hopping about in the carpark for taking pictures. This low level is normal for midday during the week. The caterpillar backhoe was gone. Along the west side of the carpark is a new plywood walled-off section two slips wide unmarked and quiet. The contractor's camp north and west of the carpark seemed quiet and inactive. West of the carpark there was construction work in progress on some other section of the Museum around an existing hall within the ultimate Square. That is, it was in the northwest quadrant of the Square. In any case, this is outside the scope of my photoessay program. The scaffold on the dome was a bit more complete with a section raised on the east side. Note that this east side is inaccessible for it abuts the Museum. An alley between the original Planetarium building and the Museum was filled in by the Hall of the Sun in the early 1970s. The edifice, apart from scaffold placed atop it, seems unmolested. The dome was still intact and exterior finish and fixtures remained in place. Apart from the gang in the apron there was no other activity at the site. There were no workers on the scaffold, roof, or dome. The two trailers I saw in session 2 were still there and workers were hauling cartons from it. I asked one of the workers about progress on the demolition. He shrugged in saying that he was unloading and setting up for a new exhibit inside the Museum. The Planetarium work is some other body's job. So the trailers are not part of the Planetarium project.
SESSION 4 - 1997 MARCH 22 ----------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Saturday 22 March 1997 from 13:30 to 14:00 during a day of errands around Manhattan. The weather was mild, 5C to 10C, and blustery. The sky was mixed cloud and sunshine, but during my site visit the Sun remained behind clouds. By now I had the benefit of my earlier pictures to guide me. There were no major discrepancies between them and my previous reports. The site was quiet altho signs of activity were evident. There was tracked dirt at spots in the western side of the carpark from the walled in bay and dirt-filled corner. The lay of this dirt indicated that what ever was going on was likely related to the construction in other parts of the Museum campus. The walled in bay I first noticed in session #3 may have been in place before my project began. Today they were hidden by a row of parked cars. I recall the general appearance of the cars's arrangement was the same on the other Saturdays and that I may simply have missed seeing the bay behind the cars. The carpark was full, typicly so for a weekend afternoon, but there was minimal traffic. I could move about in the carpark without interference. One of the two trailers, not associated with the Planetarium, was gone. The contractor's camp was quiet but some piles of material looked like they were moved around during the week. The Link-Belt backhoe was gone from the immediate area. The site was generally clean and dry with some dirt blown around by wind. The scaffold now completely enclosed the dome and seemed about complete. It formed a box around the dome, nowhere touching it, from the roof to the dome's zenith. The dome was intact with no obvious disturbance. The rest of the building itself remained unmolested. All exterior finish and fixtures, including the security lights, were still in place. Only a dozenish people approached the Planetarium as if to visit it. They were deterred by the scaffold and the apron, which was all dug up and risky to walk on. No one got close enough to read the signs on the doors of the building. The front apron was open to passage by anyone. I walked, carefully, on it for pictures with no one calling me away. It was all gouged out where the 'galaxies' were pulled up. It was quite easy to trip on the holes. There were no signs, safety tape or swiss cheese, cones or horses to keep people off of it. The sky after I left gradually cleared. By twilight it offered a spectacular view of Hale-Bopp. I saw it from West Broadway and Broome St, SoHo, when I stepped out of a bookshop.
SESSION 5 - 1997 APRIL 2 ---------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday 2 April 1997 before attending the Association lecture at the Museum. I arrived at the site at 17:45 and moved on to the dinner hosted by the Association for the lecturer at 18:15. The weather was sunny, altho near sunset, mild, about 10C, and quite gusty. Winds whipped across the site, throwing up dirt and loose debris. The carpark had a score of vehicles in it. The traffic during my visit was light and it offered no interference with my picture taking. The works on the west side of the carpark were about the same as in previous session. Being that they are unrelated to the Planetarium, I'll pass over them in the future. The area around the Planetarium had wind-blown litter. The front apron still was unprotected. People walked over this apron in going to and from the carpark or trying to visit the Planetarium. The gouged out holes were still open and many were damp from a thunderstorm over the previous weekend. Paper blocking on one of the Planetarium doors was missing. It was too dark inside to see any details thru the door. No lights were visible in the structure, altho some of the streetlamps surrounding it turned on in the twilight. There was a metal ladder against the front marquee, like for workers to climb atop the marquee. The structure remains unviolated. The walls are unharmed and unmarked. Exterior fixtures all seemed to be in place. About ten parties tried to visit the Planetarium during my session and were quite surprised to find it closed. Normally on Wednesday evenings the building is open for free perusal of the exhibits,.such as there were any. There is normally no skyshow until late in the evening, when the lasershows start up. The main new feature is the walling in of the dome. The scaffold now sported walls on the north (front) and west (carpark) sides. The wall material was rigid and solid to hold up to the wind; it was not a fabric or plastic sheeting. The east and south sides were exposed and thru them the dome stood open to view. It seems that the dome will be enclosed in a box, as if to permit work on it in all weather. In the cirque driveway directly in front of the Planetarium was a dumpster partially filled with loose debris. None was obviously from the Planetarium. The material consisted of handsized chunks of concrete, pieces of pipe, a large heavy sheet metal sign (lettering obscured by piled up debris), and assorted small fixtures and fittings. They appeared to have been dug from the ground rather than removed from an interior space. Dirt was tracked around the dumpster but no trail of it led to the Planetarium. There was a hotdog cart, tended and busy, in the driveway near the carpark. It catered to passing walkers. A dogrun next to the contractor's camp was busy with dogs under exercise by their keepers. With twilight coming in I left at 18:15 for the prelecture dinner at a closeby restaurant and then attended the lecture itself.
SESSION 6 - 1997 APRIL 5 ---------------------- This is not an actual site visit; my last visit remains that of 2 April 1997. Some readers noted having trouble visualizing my site description. I offer this ASCII map to clear things up. Because this explanation goes with the reports on my photoessay project, I insert it here as an extra 'session'.
M E \ / X / \ 81st Street C +-------------------------------||---------------||--[|||] C o | Theodore Roosevelt Park - or - Margaret Meade Field | e l | || || | n u | s s s s s s s s s s \\ s s s s // s s | t m | \\ // s | r b | s ||\\ // MMMMMMM | a u | HHHHHHHHH ccccccccccccccc ======= M M | l s | s H H c c PPPPPPPPPPPM N | | H power H c carpark c P Hayden PM M | P A | s H house H c c P Plm PM M | k v | H H c c P PM M | | s HHHHHHHHH ccccccccccccccx PPPPPPPPPPPM M | W | MMMMMMMMMMMMMMxxxxxxxMMMMMMM M | | s MMMMMMMMMMMMM MMMMMMMMM M | | M American Museum of Natural History M | ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ---- rest of campus at about 79th Street ----
[|||] = stairs to 81st St station of the IND 8th Av subway. This is a local stop currently worked by routes A, B, and C. Which of the three stops here is a function of the day and hour but the station does enjoy service 24 hours of every day of the year. There are also two bus stops and a taxi pickup at this corner. There was from about 1880 until about 1940 a station at 81st St and Columbus Av. This was part of the Ninth Avenue el. It was torn down just before World War Two. MMMM = perimeter of Museum. The Museum consists of some 20ish separate structures which are attached or semidetached. They were built over the years 1874 thru 1975 by assorted architects. The north face of the Museum campus was never finished. s s s = The ultimate 'complete Square' planned structures along the north and west flanks of the Museum campus. If ever built these would hide the Planetarium and power house from street view. This is one reason these two structures are so plain in exterior decor. cccc = The carpark. This is a square plot the size of one of the 'pieces' needed to complete the Square. This area would be the northern formal entrance on 81st Street. xxxx = The 'rear' entrance into the Museum in the southeast corner of the carpark. This was cut thru to accommodate people who parked in the carpark so they did not have to walk all the way back to Central Park West. Just inside the Museum at this entry is a rear entry into the Planetarium. HHHH = power house. This is the structure I described as being symmetrical with the Planetarium. Since that report I learned it houses boilers and an electrical substation for the entire campus. Recall that the Museum was begun when electric utilities were small . Each major development had to build and operate its own power system. Altho no generators are in this house today, it is a large electric and steam distribution station. Construction work is ongoing in and around this power house as part of the new works. ||, //, \\ = Circular or cirque driveway. This is a divided road, flagstoned for pedestrians and cobblstoned for vehicles. The foot road is the outer ring. OK, so it is only a semicircle. PPPP = The Hayden Planetarium. Note that it is deliberately sized and positioned within the Square for eventual enclosure by the completed Museum. The main entry is on the north face at the apex of the cirque driveway. The building is sealed against casual visitors in preparation for asbestos removal. The dome is being encased inside a closed box (see Session #5) so when it is busted up the structure will suppress any loose asbestos fibers. ==== = The front apron at the entry of the Planetarium and the apex of the cirque road. In the mid 1980s this was inlaid with bronze swirlly plates, supposedly galaxies, now ripped up with unknown disposition. There was a massive brouhaha in the art world about this apron. A woman artist went to a laser lightshow and was thrilled by it. She wanted to thank the Planetarium by donating an artpiece to it. Dr William Gutch, Planetarium director then, plain couldn't care. Somehow the artist got a go-ahead for her work. But the Planetarium simply ignored her thereafter. The general scheme of the new works is to fill in much of the region 's s s s' to finish off the north side of the campus. The plan calls for replacing the Hayden Planetarium with a new structure within the same footprint as the old. So 'PPPP' will be the new planetarium. It will be open to the street with no immediate idea to later enclose it, altho that option is preserved. The carpark will be replaced by a sunken car garage of three levels. Two are underground and one is on surface. Atop the garage is a public garden or terrace. Uses of this terrace are under discussion and they could include cafe, dancing, starviewing, art shows. While the carpark is closed, being then torn up in building the garage, there will be no onsite parking for visitors. They will have to find offsite accommodations in commercial garages or at curbside. The issue of school buses was a concern in the design of the garage. The garage is only for regular cars, not buses. The street floor has a depot for pickup and dropoff but the buses must stow themselves somewhere off the Museum campus. Presumably there will be an adit to the Museum from within the garage to replace the present carpark entry. The power house is under rebuilding. I am not trying to document this work. It will be largely hidden by new structures. The region along Columbus Av will be partially filled by new halls of the Museum and a western entrance. This will not be a full entrance like those on the south and east. It'll br a lesser, tho proper, adit for pedestrians only with no driveway. As a separate project, the NYC Parks Department will rebuild Theodore Roosevelt Park. It is quite shabby today and does need repair. Note that one must say 'Theodore Roosevelt' because there are several 'Roosevelt' parks in the CIty. For example, there is a 'Sarah Roosevelt Park' between Chinatown and the Bowery. The north side of Theodore Roosevelt Park is also known as Margaret Meade Field after the famed anthropologist from the Museum.
SESSION #7 - 1997 APRIL 21 ------------------------ I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Monday 21 April 1997 from 16:30 thru 17:00 Eastern Daylight Savings Time. This was before normal closing of work because I was at a computer instruction in Rockefeller Center; the class was complete at 16:00. I arrived via route B, West End-6th Av, a one-seat ride from Rockefeller Center to the Museum. The weather was mild to warm, about 15C to 20C, and calm. The sky was overcast with clouds that frosted the Sun. They thickened gradually during my visit. I had a jacket on yet I could have gone well without one. The site was now all walled off from visitor access. There was a perimeter wall of plywood about 2 meters tall surrounding the Planetarium. It reached from the east wing of the Museum, across the east arm of the circular drive, thru Theodore Roosevelt Park (or Margaret Meade Field), across the western arm of the circular drive, to a merger with the fence defining the contractor's camp. The wall is roughly built and ill-fitted to the contours of the land. It was framed and buttressed with wood beams. The outer side was painted; the inner, native. The crossings of the circular path are fitted with crude swinging doors, both with large signs prohibiting private vehicles. The doors on the east arm, the usual exit for cars, was closed. The one on the west arm, the usual adit, was wide open, allowing vehicles to reach the carpark and the apron of the Planetarium. To further prevent cars, cones and drums were placed in the drive, and a chain stretched across it at the street points. This chain is thin and easily snapped by any vehicle missing sight of it. A uniformed Museum guard stood watch at the adit to wave away cars.In addition, one of the gates from the carpark entry was positioned at this adit. It was wide open. The exit gates, closed, had with no human protection. Contrasted with the barriers to vehicles, the way was completely clear for foot traffic. The adit to the circular drive also is the entry to the park and there was a steady flux of visitors passing thru. It being rather obvious that they were not going to the Planetarium, the guard never challenged or warned any of them. When I saw the barrage at the exit, next to the subway station on 81st St and Central Park West, I walked to the adit, in mid block on 81st St. I entered the park and walked all the way to and thru the circumvallation. When I penetrated some 4 meters inside the wall, thru the open gates, I was hailed by a guard. This was a different one, one who was perambulating within the perimeter. He noted that I wandered into a construction area and that the public area was over there, outside the wall. He was thoroly polite and cordial about the matter. I asked if I could take a few pictures and he allowed me to, provided I stay where I was and not procede farther inside. I took a few photos, and thanked him, then retreated back into the park. I continued photography of the site from the public zones of the park. From the brief view I had inside the wall the Planetarium still seemed unharmed overall. The facade and west side of the building seemed intact. There was some loose construction material here and there, as well as dirt and mud. The carpark was empty of cars. I did not walk far enough toward the carpark to see all parts of it. I had a good look only at the half in line with the former entry. The dome was now completely enclosed in its box. I asked the lower or inner guard if the box was complete and sealed on all sides. He said it was and that on his patrols he sees it from various sides. He volunteered that it was closed on top by a roof. This from the ground where I was I could not confirm for myself. The scaffold is gone. It was apparently merely the work platform for building the box. The box now looked self-supporting and sitting on the roof deck of the Planetarium. To be honest, the building actually looks like its still in use! It's as if tho the dome were purposely hidden in an enclosure, like many other planetaria. I lingered at the street and chatted with the guard posted there. He noted that he's part of a transportation crew that tells visitors about parking services near the Museum. He pointed out a large sign mounted on the park fence that proclaimed the closing of the carpark. He further explained that with the carpark entry into the Museum being closed, the only way into the Museum in the afterhours is thru the main one on Central Park West. The Museum did not open the 77th Street gate to make up for the loss of this here entrance. After about a half hour on the site I left for home. By sunset the clouds lowered and thickened to start dropping rain.
SESSION 8 - 1997 MAY 7 -------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday 7 May 1997 from 16:45 to 17:15 EDST. I had an errand in late afternoon at work which finished early. Being that this evening there was the monthly Association lecture I had to stop at the Museum anyway. So I arrived early for a session at the Planetarium. From Herald Sq I rode the Brighton Beach express to Columbus Circle and changed to a West End local. This I rode to the Museum's station, 81st Street at Central Park West. The day was windy and chilly, about 10C. The Sun was blazing, even annoying, despite a few cumulus clouds that hid it momentarily. Yet by waiting for the clouds to cover the Sun I could take my pictures pretty much as I wanted. On the ground there was vestigial puddling from a ferocious storm that swept over the City yesterday. The trees are all foiiated and they did block out many of the sightlines I enjoyed of the Planetarium in the earlier sessions. At first glance the site looked the same as two weeks ago. The contractor's wall was still in place with all its signs. The Planetarium structure looked intact. From the station on the corner of 81st Street and Central Park West I went to the former entrance to the circular drive. The former exit was still all walled off. There was no guard at the entry and the way was open for anyone to walk into Theodore Roosevelt Park. There was light foot traffic in the park but the dogrun was closed. The gate in the contractor's wall on this side of the drive was open and I stood near it for a few moments. No guard or other person stopped me. There were new signs announcing that the zone within the wall is a hardhat area and trespass was prohibited. During my visit a man, dressed in a trenchcoat with no visible insignia or badge, ambled thru the gate and to the Planetarium. He got into a service van parked in front of the Planetarium and drove it back out this same gate. At the street he stopped, got out to unhook the little chain across the drive. He then nudged the van across the entrance to curbside, got out to replace the chain, and then drove off into the traffic on 81st Street. So while he obviously had authority to enter the site and fetch a vehicle from it, he went thru no check or control. A general look-see from the gate revealed nothing of major importance that called for closer approach. So I stayed by the gate. At the most I transgressed it by a meter or two. Then I saw the one significant new feature. The Planetarium is now violated! On the west side, facing the carpark, was a neatly cut square aperture about three meters a side. A smaller one, rectangular and narrow, pierced the wall at the second floor level. In the carpark were waste dumpsters. They were too far to see inside of. Never the less, it seemed that during the day, or over several days, the interior of the Planetarium was under clearing with the debris tossed in the dumpsters. While there was no activity at the moment, marks of activity earlier in the day were everywhere. Tire marks, dirt, thin mud, loose debris were scattered around the Planetarium and the carpark. The carpark so far as I could see from the gate was intact. That is, the asphalt was still in place altho much dirtied. After essaying the site I wanted a better view of the Planetarium wall penetration. This I got by standing on a park bench near the dogrun and by peeking thru a space in the contractor wall near 80th Street. As I left the site for the prelecture dinner at 17:15 I spotted a display case mounted on the contractor wall near the park entrance at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. In it behind its locked glass door were pages from the newsletter issued by the Museum to describe the Planetarium project. Because I was quite early for the dinner, which began at 18:00, I ambled about in the neighborhood and photographed the new star- friendly lamppoles recently installed along Columbus Avenue. They were put up during the street's rebuilding in 1995 and 1996. The nostalgic- style fixtures confine their lightrays more directly onto the ground than the old cobraheads.
SESSION 9 - 1997 MAY 22 --------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 22 May 1997. I arrived at 18:00 EDST straight from work via the West End train from Herald Square. The sky was bright and clear with scattered cumulus clouds. These hid the Sun often enough to allow pictures from any angle. The air was warm, about 20C. I really did not need the light jacket I was wearing. Both of the gates barring the circular drive were closed. Here to fore the one at the former entrance of the drive was open to allow a clear sight into the premises. Today there was no such open prospect. There was no crew at the entrance nor any at the very gate itself. Yet within the wall there were workers muscling debris from the Planetarium into dumpsters and earthmoving equipment deployed in the carpark. These I could see thru gaps, due to crude construction, in the circumvallation. I could also get some sightline by standing on park benches here and there, but these were remote from the Planetarium. This time I brought with me, based on my experience on May the 7th, session #8, a palmsize monocular of six power. This let me see the work around the Planetarium quite well from the score and more meters of my closest approach. The instrument is so tiny that it is completely hidden in the hand and does not attract adverse attention. It cost about $25 from a hunting/camping mailorder company. The major new feature is that the Planetarium is decupolated! The dome -- the whole effing dome -- is gone. So is gone the enclosing box. The building looks like an ordinary two story affair with a flat roof. It was impossible to tell if the interior is now exposed to the sky or if a temporary false roof was laid in place of the dome. At least thru the apertures facing the carpark, into which strong sunlight entered, the interior looked quite dark. I could see no indication of skylight from within the building. The aperture in the second floor was enlarged to about the same 3x3 meter size of the ground floor one and within it was a rubbish cart. On the ground workers were busily hauling debris from the Planetarium to dumpsters in the carpark. In the carpark were caterpillar excavators and a 2-1/2 meter tall mound of loose rock (or concrete) and dirt. Most of the carpark's lamppoles and signage remained in place. There is an addition to the session #7 and #8 of importance. On these occasions foliage blocked clear views of the Planetarium's north face but I took pictures anyway. Examination of these revealed what I missed during the visits. The headsign and window grills were removed. They seem to have been carefully taken down for the brickwork around the was whole and clean. A ripping out or pulling down would have left pretty nasty scars. Planetarium director Dr Neil Tyson explained their fate to me at the Association's Annual Business Meeting on Wednesday 22 May 1997. These artifacts were preserved for a future exhibit about the old building. The longstanding mystery about the headsign remains. Why was the upper row of lettering ever so slightly different in typeface from the lower? The upper read 'American Museum'; the lower, 'Hayden Planetarium'. At first look the two made a whole statement, 'American Museum Hayden Planetarium'. But closer inspection, even from a distance, revealed that the two rows were not of the same style. Also the upper row was squeezed between the lower one and the roofline. Pictures of the Planetarium from the Museum and Association records show that until about 1955 there was only the one row of letters for "Hayden Planetarium' with a wide margin all around. This was the original lettering on the structure from its opening. In or about 1955 the second, upper, row was added. There clearly was an attempt to match the original lettering and to fit the new letters neatly above them. Altho the result passed muster for most spectators, astrocogniscenti immediately caught the trick. Perhaps in the exhibit of the letters people can inspect them close up and see what tried to fool them for over forty years. The mystery remain why the upper was added at all. The name of the structure was well enough proclaimed by 'Hayden Planetarium' alone. The window grills were about the only effort to make the structure attractive from the north side as seen from 81st Street. The other three sides were always of plain brick, much like the bland inner faces of the other Museum buildings. This plan comes from the original intent of the Planetarium. It was supposed to eventually be engulfed by the Museum as the latter 'completed the Square'. Do see session #6 for background. There were grills on the second floor for offices facing 81st Street and one on either side of the front doors on the ground floor. The left one (looking at the front of the building) admitted skylight into the main stairs leading both to the cellar and the second floor. The right one served the ticket office just in the entrance foyer. They looked like aluminum, but I never really knew what they were made from. As I wandered about the site I came onto two boys of junior high school age. One had a camcorder and poked it thru gaps in the contractor wall to take videos. Apparently they were doing this for some time because I overheard them conversing about the project and recalling some previous visits. I asked if they noted when the dome was removed. They said sadly that they missed that episode. The lad without the camera called the camera kid to a far part of the wall. He found a way to scale the wall and get inside. This would be a trivial feat for the kids as the wall is only 2-1/2 to 3 meters tall, of flimsy construction, and near aids for climbing such as benches and trees. The camera boy skipped off to the other and the two did in fact climb over the fence. I lost them once they dropped down inside. I lingered for a moment but heard nothing of any guard or worker catching them. Because of the blocked view by the closed wall I took only a few pictures. I designed to return to the site during the day on the 23rd when probably the gate would br open. I figured that by day with vehicles moving thru the site the gate would be tied open to let them pass. I finished the visit at 18:30 by boarding the bus at 81st Street & Central park West to go to the Association;s Recent Astronomy Seminar at its office in Yorkville.