Government of Canada honours national historic significance of the David Dunlap Observatory
The David Dunlap Observatory helped position Canada at the forefront of space discovery
June 15, 2022 Richmond Hill, Ontario Parks Canada Agency
When the David Dunlap Observatory opened in 1935, in what was then rural Richmond Hill, its cutting-edge, 74-inch reflecting telescope was the second largest in the world. At the time, it attracted excitement and attention from astronomers and visitors across the globe, positioning Canada at the forefront of space discovery and helping establish the field of academic astronomy in Canada. Connected to the University of Toronto, it was a place of learning, research and discovery for generations of Canadians.
Today, Mr. Majid Jowhari, Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill, commemorated the national historic significance of the David Dunlap Observatory at a special ceremony to unveil a commemorative plaque. The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.
The University of Toronto was the first university to offer graduate degrees in astronomy in Canada, awarding its first doctorate in 1950. It was, in part, the construction of the David Dunlap Observatory that made this possible. The state-of-the-art facilities attracted students, astronomers and recognized academics whose research and breakthroughs led to hundreds of publications. The observatory was the centre of a major astronomical breakthrough in 1971, when Thomas Bolton’s research confirmed the existence of black holes. The observatory was also the research home of Helen Sawyer Hogg, a renowned expert on star clusters and Canada’s best-known astronomer through the middle of the 20th century.
Today, the site is called the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory. Owned by the City of Richmond Hill, the city conserves 40 hectares as park land. By investing in this historic site, the city is helping ensure continued public access to the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory so that future generations will continue to be inspired by the stars.
The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, designates significant persons, places, and events that shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians and youth connect with their past. The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide.
National historic designations illustrate the defining moments in the story of Canada. Together, they tell the stories of who we are and connect us to our past, enriching our understanding of ourselves, each other, and our country. Heritage places provide a wide range of cultural, social, economic, and environmental benefits to their communities.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to commemorate the national historic significance of the David Dunlap Observatory National Historic Site. For over 70 years, the observatory was a premier location for scientific research in Canada which helped change fundamental concepts of the Universe. Historic designations reflect Canada’s rich and varied history and I encourage all Canadians to learn more about the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory and its important contributions to Canada’s heritage.”
Mr. Majid Jowhari,
Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill
“The Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory is an iconic site in the City of Richmond Hill, full of heritage value and historical significance. I am so proud that this site has been recognized nationally. I am looking forward to it becoming a destination park that will welcome everyone to our city to celebrate the stars and enjoy the beauty of the vast natural parkland.”
His Worship David West,
Mayor of Richmond Hill
The David Dunlap Observatory National Historic Site opened its doors in 1935 as part of the University of Toronto.
Clarence Chant, the man with the vision, and philanthropist Jessie Dunlap were instrumental in its establishment. Dunlap funded the land purchase and planning and construction of its two main buildings. It was named after her late husband, Donald Dunlap.
The Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory still holds its title as being the largest optical telescope in Canada.
In 2021, Richmond Hill completed an extensive conservation of the exteriors of both the Administration building and the Observatory dome to restore and preserve the heritage features of this national historic site.
Visitors can access the Observatory dome to view the telescope by registering for programs and events offered by the Toronto Chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders or through private group tours.
The architectural design of the Observatory dome combines mid-20th Modern and Neo-Classical elements while the Administration building features elegant Beaux-Arts designs consistent with other University of Toronto buildings.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of persons, places, and events that have marked history in Canada. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
The vast majority of nominations brought forward for the consideration of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada originate from members of the public. To nominate a person, place or historical event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Parks Canada Agency
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Parks Canada Agency
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: