The observatory that gives Observatory Hill and Observatory Drive their names was also the first building given to the UW by private donation. A gift from former Wisconsin governor (and cofounder of General Mills) Cadwallader Washburn, Washburn Observatory was built in 1877 and served as the university’s main astronomical facility from 1881 until 1959, when the UW opened a more rural observatory in Pine Bluff. Washburn not only paid for the building, he selected the site, chose the architect, and hired the contractor. The pride of Washburn Observatory was the 15.6-inch refracting telescope, larger than the one then in use at Harvard University. It’s called the Clark Telescope, after Alvan Clark and Sons, the firm that built it. The Clark Telescope is still available for public star-gazing, but the astronomy department abandoned the observatory in the 1950s, after light pollution (particularly from cars traveling up and down Observatory Drive) made the site unfeasible. Washburn Observatory has since been the home of the Institute for the Study of Humanities and the College of Letters & Science Honors Program.
The art for the Badger Pride Wall was created for WAA by Madison illustrator Nate Koehler.