A History of the Creighton Observatory in North Omaha

A History of the Creighton Observatory in North Omaha

One building on the Creighton University campus is among the oldest and places a significant role in the history of field of astronomy. However, it is off limits to the public! Here is a history of the Creighton Observatory in North Omaha.

The first telescope was purchased by John A. Creighton for the university in 1884, before there was a facility for it. Soon after he arrived in 1885, Father William Rigge, S.J. became synonymous with the observatory. The primary lead for the facility, he was a renowned astronomical researcher and educator.

This is an early image of the observatory from before 1910.

The original telescope was installed at the new Creighton Observatory in 1886, at what was the first observatory in Omaha. It was made nationally known in 1887 when Father Rigge exchanged signals with the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. The facility was placed on the official list of the world’s observatories in 1902.

When he died in 1907, John A. Creighton left money to the university to buy a new telescope from London.

In 1924, a widening of North 24th Street led to the building being renovated for continued use. The facility operated from 1886 into the 1930s. Father William F. Rigge made important observations and became a noted astronomer while teaching at Creighton during the early era of the university’s history. He died in 1927, having spent more than 40 years of his career at the university.

This 1930s image of the Creighton Observatory shows the 1910 retention wall.

After the 1970s, the city’s lights were too bright for the telescope to be used regularly, especially after 1988 when floodlights on campus blocked its abilities entirely.

Kept in varying conditions over the years, students have been in the building throughout the years with special events, and it continues to stand today. The Creighton University Observatory stands just north and west of North 24th and Burt Streets.

For decades, the Observatory is in poor condition and is inaccessible to students and visitors. It was not included in a proposed Creighton University Historic District, and was not listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated as an official Omaha Landmark by the City of Omaha Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission.

In April 2022, Creighton University demolished the observatory.

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BONUS

The Creighton Astronomical Observatory was built in 1889 and demolished in 2022.
Creighton Stadium in 1912
This 1912 pic shows a football game in the Creighton Stadium. Included in the pic are views of the observatory, Creighton Hall and St. John’s.

2 responses to “A History of the Creighton Observatory in North Omaha”

  1. Hi,
    **This is so fun and exciting to read about my ancestors and see a portrait of John Creighton, my father and my son, could be his twin. My maiden name is
    Carol Ann Creighton, my father was Daniel Santon Creighton. We were born and raised Roman Catholic. There were five children total, I am the youngest girl out of four with a younger brother, carry on the Creighton name. My grandfather, Daniel S. Creighton also, died of a massive MI in his late 40’s, lived in Philadelphia for a while before moving to Michigan. He was a surveyor, brilliant in math, my father said. My father went to the University of Chicago on an academic scholarship, graduating third in his class. My father was highly intelligent, stating if he had studied he could have done better. My father graduated as an English major in broadcasting and meteorology.
    What I was told, “We came from Europe”, being English and German? My grandma and Grandpa Creighton were divorced. We never had the pleasure of meeting him. My dad and grandpa Creighton were living in Detroit, Michigan when he passed; my father was a sophomore in high school.
    I am writing a family true story right now, so I am very interested!

    Liked by 1 person

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