Warner and Swasey Observatory: The End of an Era

Andrew Liu

As of July 22, 2018, CWRU’s infamous abandoned observatory is switching hands. That Sunday was the last time I would be able to visit its graffiti-filled walls before its ownership shifted from the city to a new microbrewery. I visited the observatory in hopes of showing my Texan friend a personal gem of East Cleveland. When we arrived, there were multiple cars nearby, unusual since every time I had been, there were no more than two cars. As we walked in, we were approached by a man holding a measuring tape. The man asked what we were doing, and we said we were there to take pictures. He said okay, and let us enter.

My first reaction was shock at the floor being so clean. What happened to the empty fridge in the middle of the room? And all the spray paint bottles and other nasty things? As we walked up the stairs, two basic white guys passed us on their way down. My friend and I were going about our business taking pictures and such. But as we were going down the stairs about to leave the premises, we were met by a police officer. We both started panicking. I personally don’t feel really comfortable around law enforcement officers. He questioned us about our motives for being there, who gave us permission, and if there was anybody else with us. He then asked us to go outside, which we quickly did.Unsure of what to do, the two of us tried to leave sneakily.

The escape ended up as a failure due to the way I was parked. I would either have to make a U-turn and take a roundabout way out of the neighborhood, or pull up past the cop car, other people who were in the vicinity, and the apparent soon-to-be owner of the property. Before I could make a decision, the police officer walked out of the building. Afraid of what would happen, I chose the latter option and pulled up next to him and the soon-to-be owner.

We cleared up the confusion as to who gave us permission to enter the premises, and then the officer told us off, saying that technically we were trespassing which was a criminal offense. When we heard that, we were afraid that he would file a report which would be on our permanent record. Shaking in my car, he griped on and on about how the city wasn’t in good shape and money issues, how there only four or five officers employed at the moment, an all-time low. There was a fear that if we were to get injured on the city’s property, we would sue.

Then the topic turned to the soon-to-be new owner, who was talking about his grand plans to start a micro-brewery at the observatory. He was fascinated with the graffiti and wanted to tag the place, making it appear grungy. As he conversed with the officer, we sat awkwardly in the car listening. Mustering up my courage, I asked if we could leave. With “yes” as a reply, I sped out onto the road with no destination in mind. The fear of being arrested taking over my mind, my brain drove on autopilot.

As this is the end of an era for one of Cleveland’s abandoned buildings, I will now proceed with a collection of photos to reminisce its history. This is for the future Clevelanders who will not be able to see this building as it once was.