Okay, College Avenue Commuters, how many times have you passed the odd little tower on the corner of George St. and Somerset St. on Old Queens? This tower is actually composed of two circular rooms dedicated to the observations of the astronomical and mathematical cycles of nature. This Observatory contains a refracting telescope and mean solar clock that was modeled after the Tower of Winds of Athens in the year 1865. The 100+ year old structure is named after Daniel S. Schanck who donated the funds that began construction of the tower. Daniel, who was born in Middletown, NJ in 1812, was not a student of astronomy, nor even a student of Rutgers. He moved to New York in his youth and became a successful businessman who remained in the City for the rest of his life. Exactly why he generously supported the construction of the phallic-like NJ Observatory is unknown. It was rumored that he was very much in love with one of the wives of a Tutor at Rutgers and built his monument to impress her. His lonely spirit is reputed to “haunt the tower” and be visible on cold, starry nights when the planets are aligned just right.
For the RR Team, this is one of the most elusive mysteries on the College Avenue Campus. After inspecting the building, we found it to be securely locked up, albeit with an old rusty lock and according to the Rutgers index, the building has not been opened for more than twenty years. Like the inaccessible Merriwood Castle, the Schanck Observatory is an irresistible curiosity to the Team who would love to learn its secrets.
Special thanks to Prof. William H. Bauer who lent the RR Team his copy of “Aloud to Alma Mater”, which has proved to be the most complete source of information on the Schanck Observatory and other Rutgers historical spots.