During the transformation of the Watson-Curtze Mansion into a natural history museum in the 1940s, the decision was made to add a planetarium to the complex. In preparation for the addition, museum and Erie City School District leaders visited Cleveland to learn more about the operation and management of a planetarium. As a result of this visit, the company that built the planetarium of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was chosen to build a planetarium in Erie.
The Spitz Company, led by Mr. Armond Spitz, finished construction of the planetarium late in 1959. When it opened, it was recognized as only the 5th planetarium to be built in the state of Pennsylvania. Mr. Spitz himself attended the facility grand opening, which came at a time when space science and exploration were making headlines – the Soviet Sputnik was launched, NASA was created and the race to the moon was about to begin!
The Erie Planetarium has retained the same name throughout the last fifty years even as ownership passed from the Junior League of Erie and the School District of the City of Erie to the Erie County Historical Society.
The Erie Planetarium is housed in the carriage house of the Watson-Curtze Mansion. The original star machine, a Spitz A2, was replaced by a Spitz A3P and is housed under a 20-foot dome. Benches provide seating for (40) adults or (50) small children. Shows are tailored for all ages, preschool through retirement, and may be scheduled for school and scout groups, office and birthday parties, private dinners and almost any special occasion. For more information call 814.454.1813 *53.