Location Information
(for the Kennon Observatory [A-23])
Name:Kennon Observatory [A-23]
Address:University of Mississippi
City/County:Oxford, Lafayette County
Architectural Information
Construction Date:1939
Mississippi Landmark Information
The study of astronomy at the University of Mississippi has a long and distinguished history. F.A.P. Barnard, the first chancellor of the university, convinced the legislature to purchase the largest telescope in the world in 1858. While this telescope was never installed because of the outbreak of the Civil War, another telescope eventually took its place in Barnard Observatory, now the Center for Southern Studies. By the 1930s, the university wanted to expand the facilities for its physics department and Dr. William Kennon conceived the plan for a new observatory. The building faces due south and is precisely aligned on an east-west axis. The larger dome houses a fifteen-inch telescope while the smaller dome houses a five-inch telescope. The transit room between domes (the hyphen) was designed to open for observations with a three inch meridian telescope. Completed in 1939, the building continues to be used as classroom and laboratory for the study of astronomy. In addition to its formal education mission, the observatory opens for public viewing from time to time. The Kennon Observatory is historically significant for its association with Education and Science.

Designed by Jackson architect R.W. Naef, the building was funded by a 1938 grant from the Public Works Administration for a new physics building and observatory. Since the grant required construction to begin by January 1, 1939, Andrew Hargis, university engineer and superintendent of buildings and grounds, surveyed and staked off the construction site, dug footings with a pick and shovel; poured concrete and took photographs which established the university met the PWA deadline. Naef’s completed structure employs Georgian Revival details which complement the nearby Greek Revival Lyceum and the many campus buildings designed in classical styles. The siting of the building is so precise that a small tube in the south wall is oriented such that the direct rays of the sun shine through it to the floor only twice a year, at noon on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.
Brief Description
The Kennon Observatory is a two-story Georgian Revival brick observatory building with a metal dome on a flat roof. The two-story block is connected by a gable-roof hyphen to a smaller two-story octagonal tower with a metal dome on the roof.
Kennon Observatory: Mississippi Landmark Significance Report June 2010 Bill Gatlin, MDAH