Stellafane 'Little Man' - click for Stellafane Home Page Early History Page Header

Stellafane Early History
1923 - 1986

The early history page covers all of the history from the beginning of our club through the purchase of Stellafane East in 1987. See the Modern History page for history from 1987 through the present day.

Early Club History

Stellafane Clubhouse ~1924
The Stellafane Clubhouse circa 1924, without work room wing, front stone wall or concrete benches.
Stellafane Clubhouse ~1924
  • An Early Brief History of Stellafane

    This article gives a an account of early history of Stellafane through the 1930's.

  • The Telescope Makers of Springfield, Vermont

    Read this 1923 article by Porter, which includes many historic photos.

  • History of Stellafane 1921 - 1989

    This detailed history by club historian Bert Willard consists of four book-length chapters, and provides a comprehensive exposition of the club's history. It does a great job in describing the learn years for the club during and after World War II, and a chapter devoted to the Maksutov Club of the 1950's, which is material that is not currently covered by our other history articles. Since Bert has been an active club member since 1953, many of his accounts are first hand.

  • About the Stellafane 'Little Man' by Bert Willard, Club Historian

    Stellafane's symbol, the "Little Man" (shown at upper left in most of the Stellafane Web pages), first appeared during the convention on Friday, August 15, 1930. Unfortunately, not much is known of it's creation and/or creator (most likely NOT Russell Porter). What little we do know comes from a report written by a conventioneer named Leo Scanlon. Read his report on the "Little Man" below:

    "Pierce had completed the mounting of his transparencies, and brought outside a wrought iron sign made by one of the local boys. We tried different locations for it, and finally decided to hang it directly over the central North Door. It was necessary to bend the lower part of the bracket, which Pierce and I did in the vice in the shop, cutting off the surplus piece at the bottom, which interfered with the opening of the screen door, and securing a ladder, proceeded to nail it up."

  • Why a Pink Clubhouse?
    South side of the Clubhouse
    South side of the Clubhouse, undated, before the work room was added on the west side. Since there are no color photographs from this era, we know it was pink only from written accounts. While the polar Cassegrain is present, the sundial has not been added yet.
    South side of the Clubhouse, undated, before the work room was added on the west side. Since there are no color photographs from this era, we know it was pink only from written accounts.

    The name Stellafane, originally stellar-fane, is Latin for "shrine to the stars" and was adopted by Russell Porter when the clubhouse was constructed in 1923. It officially refers to only the building but, over the years, has commonly been used to refer to the convention. To avoid confusion, the building was given the unofficial nick-name "The Pink-Clubhouse" for obvious reasons.

    Why a "pink" clubhouse? Two stories are told on that subject. The first is that, due to lack of funds upon the completion of the construction of the clubhouse, the club asked a local hardware store owner for a donation of paint. The proprietor agreed so long that he could choose the color which turned out to be "Stellafane Pink" and it's been kept that color ever since. The second is that Russell Porter requested that the clubhouse be painted "spruce-gum pink" which is white with just a tint of pink. Upon his next arrival on the hill he found that the member's misunderstood his request and painted the clubhouse the hot "Stellafane pink" that we see today. Again, thanks to tradition it's still that color today. It's not known which, if either, story is true. Bert Willard, Springfield Telescope Makers Historian

See also the section below: Observatories & Major Buildings

Russell W. Porter

Russell W. Porter, 1935
Russell W. Porter

Russell Porter founded the Springfield Telescope Makers. Earlier, he was navigator on sev­eral arctic expeditions, and then spent time founding an artists colony in Port Clyde, Maine.. Later, he was recruited by Hale and joined the 200-inch telescope project at Palomar.

  • The Arctic Sketches of Russell W. Porter

    This link takes you to the National Archives web site and a 1997 article about the sketches, many of which are in the National Archive collections.

  • A Polar Explorer Embraces the Simple Life in Maine

    This 9 page well illustrated document provides insight into Russell Porter's time in Port Clyde, Maine, where he settled after his artic explorations and before returning to Springfield, Vermont and founding Stellafane. A 9-page pdf document written by Kamissa A. Mort, who grew up summering in Land’s End (Porter's development in Port Clyde).

  • Whimsical Mirror Grinding Machine Cartoon
    Russell Porter 1936 Whimsical Mirror Grinding Machine
    Whimsical Mirror Grinding Machine Cartoon

    Porter always seemed to be sketching something, and in this 1936 illustration he created a Rube Goldberg style mirror grinding machine, with a napping amateur providing biometric timing control via heartbeat and breathing.

  • Glass Working by Heat and by Abrasion

    This book, edited by Paul N. Hasluck and published by Cassell and Company in London, 1899, was the book Porter used to teach himself telescope mirror making in Port Clyde. It is available for reading, free, online, by clicking the link.

  • Photo of Porter's home in Springfield
    2 Hill Place
    R. W. Porter's home at 2 Hill Place in Springfield, VT
    R. W. Porter's home in Springfield, VT

    A Hand Tinted Photo of 2 Hill Place, Springfield, Vermont (photo at right). This was the home of Russell W. Porter between 1919, when he was hired by James Hartness to develop the optical comparator into a marketable product, and 1929, when he was hired by George Hale to work on the 200-inch telescope project.

  • Porter Article in 1928 Vermonter Magazine [PDF]

    This article by Oscar Marshall was written as Porter was leaving for Caltech to work on the 200-inch telescope.

  • Russell Porter's Drawings of Palomar

    Porter made these amazingly detailed 3-D drawings of the 200-inch telescope on Mt. Palomar from 2-D blueprints before the telescope was built!

  • The Story of Palomar (1948 Film)
    Porter drawing at CalTech

    This 1948 film documents the development of the 200-inch Hale Telescope and Palomar Observatory. Russell Porter shown at his drawing board at Caltech and demonstrating how the telescope works on a 100:1 scale model starting at 10:51 in the film. There is also a glimpse of him in the distance in a machine shop shot at 13:13.

    Porter was the fourth person hired by Edmund Ellery Hale for the Palomar project, and he worked on this project the rest of his life.

    Clicking this link will open a window on You Tube

  • A Visit to Caroline Porter Kier

    This article by club historian Bert Willard chronicles his visit with Russell Porter's daughter.

  • Porter Photo at University of Arizona Mirror Lab
    Ken Launie, President of the Antique Telescope Society, stands next to a photograph of Russell Porter outside the entrance of the University of Arizona Mirror Lab. Reproductions of Porter's drawings of Palomar line the staircase.
    Porter's photo outside
    University of Arizona Mirror Lab
    Porter's Photo hangs in University of Arizona Mirror Lab

    The University of Arizona's Mirror Lab has fabricated some of the largest professional telescope mirrors ever made. Hanging next to the main entrance is a photo of Russell Porter, and reproductions of Porter's drawings of the 200-inch Palomar telescope are hung along the adjacent stairway. It's nice to see Porter recognized this way for his pioneering work in telescope mirror making.

    The photo at right was taken in October 2011 during a tour of the lab given to the Antique Telescope Society. Society president Ken Launie is shown in this photo by John Briggs.


The 1926 Convention
The 1926 Convention (The First). Russell Porter & Albert Ingalls at far right
The 1926 Convention (The First)
R. Porter & A. Ingalls at far right

Observatories & Major Buildings

Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark Plaque
Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark Plaque is on the rock base of the Porter Turret Telescope
Stellafane Observatory
National Historic Landmark
Plaque is on the rock base of
the Porter Turret Telescope
  • Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark

    On December 20, 1989, the approximately 3.5 acre site on the summit of Breezy Hill, including the Stellafane Clubhouse and Porter Turret Telescope, were listed as a National Historic Landmark.

  • Stellafane: Our Clubhouse

    The Stellafane Clubhouse built in 1924, is notable in that it includes a Polar Cassegrain Telescope, Transit Telescope, Solar Telescope and South Wall Sundial. All of the instruments except the Transit Telescope are still operational. It also attracts attention because of its unique pink color. There are three rooms on the first floor: The fireplaced meeting room, the kitchen, and a workshop (which is now used as a kitchen extension). Upstairs, reached by a retractable stairway, are two rooms, originally used as bunkrooms, and now used for storage. Club meetings are still held here, except when snow prevents access in the winter months.

    Read this 1927 article by Russell Porter in Popular Astronomy (PDF). The article describes the clubhouse, it's facilities and telescopes. "The establishment [clubhouse] is now completed...", "...securely anchored to the rock with steel cables.", "Electric lights were installed this year." and 'Stellafane has already had two conventions... In fact our conventions act very much like a clearing house for ideas relating to reflecting telescopes".

  • The Porter Sundial on the Stellafane Clubhouse

    This article describes the Porter Sundial on the south wall of the Stellafane Clubhouse, and includes some very nice photographs of the instrument on a bright, sunny day.

  • Porter Turret Telescope
    Porter Turret Telescope & Stellafane Clubhouse
    The Porter Turret Telescope and Stellafane Clubhouse, July 2003. Note person with pole saw at far left, no doubt this picture was taken at a pre-convnetion work party, with the grass not fully mowed yet.
    The Porter Turret Telescope and
    Stellafane Clubhouse, July 2003.

    This unique 12-inch f/17 equatorial turret telescope is part of the Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark. Read about it's history, and see how we use it today:

    • How it Works: The Porter Turret Telescope is just a modified Newtonian, with the diagonal before the primary. Learn how it works, and view a photo gallery of how the optics are installed before each use.
    • Construction Photo Gallery: These images from the Stellafane archive show the Porter Turret Telescope being built.
    • The Porter Turret Restoration, Present Status and Future Operation: An article by member Jim Daley describing the 1970's restoration of the instrument. It also includes an excellent photo of Mars taken in 2005 by Bert Willard with the Porter Turret Telescope.
    • The Turret Gets New Roof In the spring of 2015, the roof of Porter Turret Telescope was replaced by a club work party.
  • Clearing of Breezy Hill

    In November 1982 loggers were hired to remove the forest that came right up to the back of the Stellafane clubhouse. This page has before and after pictures, and as a bonus, a photo of what was on Breezy Hill before Stellafane was built.

Club Activities

  • Bean Hole Beans

    In the early 1970's the tradition of the Bean Hole beans was revived for awhile. Accounts of both the original 1934 Beans, and the 1970's revival with photographs are on this page.

  • Walt Wheeler, Carl Breuning and Walter Scott Houston
    Walt Wheeler, Carl Breuning and Walter Scott Houston enjoy some refreshment and conversation in the clubhouse kitchen in March 1973.
    Photo by Alan Rohwer
    Friends in the Clubhouse, March 1973

    Walt Wheeler, Carl Breuning and Walter Scott Houston enjoy some refreshment and conversation in the clubhouse kitchen on a March weekend in 1973. While most people experience Stellafane during convention, members spend a lot of time on the site working together to maintain the land, the buildings and equipment - and even observing if the Vermont weather allows. Shared work and quiet times like this build life-long friendships and a real sense of belonging.

Museum & Hartness House

James Hartness & Russell Porter in Springfield, VT, September 1920
James Hartness & Russell Porter
Springfield, VT, September 1920
  • Hartness-Porter Museum

    In 1975 we opened the Hartness - Porter Museum of Amateur Tele­scope Making in the underground rooms at the Hartness House Inn. Many items on display are shown in pictures in this virtual museum tour.

  • 100th Anniversary of the Completion of
    the Hartness Turret Telescope

    This article by club historian Bert Willard reviews the history and use of the Hartness Turret Telescope on the one hundredth anniversary of its completion in 2010.

  • The Turret Equatorial by James Hartness

    This article by James Hartness in the Journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (v 33:2, 1911) describes his invention and imp­lement­ation of this type of telescope. Plenty of photos and drawings should you want to build your own!  PDF, 30 pages, 5Mb.

  • Restoration of the Hartness Turret Telescope

    This article by Jim Daley describes the restoration efforts of the Springfield Telescope Makers to keep the Hartness Equatorial Turret Refractor in good operating condition.

  • Ongoing Work on the Hartness Turret Telescope

    Maintenance and improvement work continues to be done to this fine instrument. In this well isllustrated article by Dave Groski, he describes work done in the fall of 2012 and describes the plans for 2013.

  • Hartness House History

    This link will take to you the Hartness House web site, where they have a nice history of Governor James Hartness, his mansion, his underground workshop and offices (where our museum is now located) and the Hartness 10-inch equatorial turret refractor.

  • Missing Porter Watercolor

    A watercolor painting of the Porter Garden Telescope is missing from Stellafane. Please help us locate it.