Thank San Quentin Ex-Con for Iconic LA Observatory

Griffith Griffith had it built after shooting his wife, serving time

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 26, 2013 2:22 PM CST

(Newser) – Movie fans are probably familiar with the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, given that it sits in view of the famed "Hollywood" sign and remains a popular film location year after year. But the Los Angeles Times today offers a interesting peek into the life of Griffith J. Griffith, the millionaire for whom it is named. Start with this line: Griffith "donated about 3,000 acres for a city park in 1896, shot his wife in the head in 1903, and served two years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon."

His soon-to-be ex-wife survived, and Griffith reportedly came out of San Quentin a changed man. He got his inspiration to build the observatory after peering through a telescope one night—"If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world"—and his epiphany was to put it not on some remote mountain but near the center of the city, easily accessible to all. By doing so, he played a huge role in opening up astronomy to the public, say his modern advocates. Critics, meanwhile, think he was just trying to buy back his reputation. Griffith died in 1919, but he left behind a trust to build the observatory, which didn't happen until the 1930s, "perhaps due to his lingering notoriety." Click for the full story.

This 2011 file photo shows the famed Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.
This 2011 file photo shows the famed Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
In this file photo, people explore the interior of the expanded Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles.
In this file photo, people explore the interior of the expanded Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Spectators watch as a partially eclipsed moon is seen behind at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles in 2008.
Spectators watch as a partially eclipsed moon is seen behind at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles in 2008.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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