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Secrets of Lowell: The Mars Hill Chalet

25 Jan 2021, 21:35 UTC
Secrets of Lowell: The Mars Hill Chalet
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Photo: the exterior of the Chalet | Madison Mooney
Tucked away amongst the trees in a secluded corner of Lowell’s Flagstaff campus lies the Mars Hill Chalet, an unusual building where some truly dark discoveries were made.
Trial and Error
The Chalet was originally built in 1962, with its left wing constructed to house the Ronnie-Morgan 24-inch reflecting telescope. A laboratory and living quarters for employees were later added onto the original building, and are still used today as lodging for visiting astronomers. The gabled roof opened like a clamshell to expose the telescope to the sky, while the four hexagonal cement blocks hanging off the sides of the roof served as counterweights. Though they haven’t served their intended purpose in many years, the blocks remain in place as an unconventional reminder of the past.
Like many other buildings on Lowell’s campus, the Chalet represents an experiment in stargazing technology—and as any scientist knows, with experimentation often comes failure. Though the roof’s shape gave the Chalet an attractive alpine feel, its design proved ineffective in standing up to Flagstaff’s strong winds as the open panels would shake back and forth during particularly strong gusts.

A Dark Discovery
The Ronnie-Morgan 24-inch ...

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