AKA: Lick, James Observatory #1, Mount Hamilton, CA; University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), University of California Observatories (UCO)/Lick Observatory #1, Mount Hamilton, CA

Structure Type: built works - research structures - observatories

Designers: Page, George W. (firm); Wright and Sanders, Architects (firm); John Galen Howard (architect); George W. Page (architect); George Hippisley Sanders (architect); John Wright (architect)

Dates: constructed 1880-1888

Lick Avenue (also called Mount Hamilton Road)
Mount Hamilton, CA

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Zip code listed in 95064, but this is for Santa Cruz;

James Lick (1796-1876), one of the wealthiest men in CA at the time of his demise, had an eccentric and frugal personality. Lick was mercurial and extremely sensitive to criticism, often testing his subordinates' loyalty. He trained as a joiner and learned the art of piano construction in Baltimore, MD, before traveling to South America to seek his fortune. Over thirty years living in Buenos Aries, Argentina, Valparaiso, Chile and Lima, Peru, Lick's piano-making business succeeded brilliantly. He also dabbled in other side businesses, such as the fur trade, which contributed to his wealth. He returned to San Francisco, CA, in 01/1848 (with $30,000 in gold and 600 pounds of his Peruvian neighbor Domenico Ghirardelli's chocolate), and, liking the city's natural harbor and climate, he bought land. His foresaw the region's growth, and purchased real estate before its price skyrocketed during the Gold Rush. He became the city's largest landowner and a multimillionaire. Selectively before 1874, Lick would donate money for charitable projects. Following a significant stroke in 1874, he became increasingly interested in his legacy through philanthropy. He bequeathed $10,000 to San Francisco's Mechanics' Institute, a technical and scientific library, lecture hall and chess club he helped to found in 1854, and the University of California (UC). Of his $3 million bequest to the UC, $700,000 went to build a telescope, which became known as the Lick Observatory. Lick's friend, the English-born George Davidson (1825–1911), a geographer, astronomer and President of the California Academy of Sciences from 1871 to 1887, convinced the richest man in CA that his greatest gift to the future was that of education. According to the Historical Collections Project of the Lick observatory, "Davidson often visited the ailing millionaire in his room at Lick House, and in the course of their conversations, gently led him to the idea of his greatest monument." His significant bequest was intended to produce, according to his 1874 deed of trust, "A telescope superior to and more powerful than any telescope yet made ... and also a suitable observatory connected therewith ...." (See "James Lick, The Generous Miser,"Accessed 02/21/2012.)

Letters on Wright and Sanders's involvement in the design of Lick Observatory, (in the Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory), have been preserved in the University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz; dates of the letters were between 1882-1884; Captain Richard S. Floyd (born c. 1843), a former Confederate naval officer, supervised the observatory's construction; Floyd was also President of James Lick's Second and Third Boards of Trust. (See "Captain at the Helm,"Accessed 0/21/2012.)

Alterations made c. 1894 by architect George H. Page; four letters by him are included in the Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz; more than 10 letters 1903-1922 by Berkeley architect, John Galen Howard, supervising Architect for the University of California, are also at the Shane Archive, UCSC. Periodic upgrades in equipment have occurred at the Lick Observatory since 1888. By 2012, the site had 9 "research-grade" telescopes functioning, its largest, the Shane 3-meter Reflector, began operations in 1960. (See "About Lick Observatory,"Accessed 02/21/2012.)

PCAD id: 1338