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Fleischmann Planetarium

A masterpiece of Populuxe architecture, the science center opened in 1963.

The Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, later called the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, was built in 1963. It was the first atmospherium-planetarium of its kind in the world, with the ability to simulate both day and night conditions and a full range of atmospheric phenomena, including cloud formations, thunderstorms and rainbows with an optical device to project images of atmospheric phenomena inside the dome. It was the first planetarium in the nation to feature a 360-degree projector capable of providing horizon-to-horizon images and through time-lapse photography showing an entire day's weather in a few minutes.

Both the design and function of the planetarium reflect the futuristic focus of the space age during which it was built. Its Populuxe style of architecture is characterized by designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms, and parabola. Reno architect Raymond Hellman designed a striking hyperbolic paraboloid structure in which form follows function.

Max C. Fleischmann, a yeast and gin industry tycoon, moved to Nevada from California in 1935 to avoid income and inheritance taxes and further his philanthropic activities. Following his death in 1951, through 1980, the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation funded over $19 million in building projects on campus, including the planetarium, named in honor of Fleischmann’s parents according to his wishes.

Originally, the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium was under the auspices of the Desert Research Institute, which closed it in September 1976 after maintenance costs became unsustainable. Soon after the closure, a “Save the Stars” fund drive chaired by Clark J. Guild was successful in raising $350,000 to qualify for an additional grant for $450,000 from the Fleischmann Foundation, and the building was quickly repaired and reopened. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. In December of 2002, a proposal for a parking garage on the site brought a threat of demolition. Once again supporters rallied and the building was saved. It is now part of the University of Nevada Extended Studies division and serves over 44,000 visitors a year.

Images

The building in 1970
The building in 1970 Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, with sign in foreground, 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1970
Groundbreaking
Groundbreaking Fleischmann Planetarium groundbreaking ceremony with University of Nevada President Armstrong and nine other unidentified men, ca. 1961. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1961
Construction
Construction Fleischmann Planetarium under construction by the McKenzie Construction Company, with a view of workers building the roof and a truck-mounted crane in the foreground, ca. 1961. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1961
A stark view
A stark view Fleischmann Planetarium viewed from the south before landscaping, ca. 1961. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1961
Aerial view
Aerial view Aerial of campus showing Fleischmann Planetarium, North Virginia Street, Getchell Library and the old Mackay Stadium in the background, ca. 1963. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Donald Dondero, Jimmy Smith Date: ca. 1963
The planetarium at dusk
The planetarium at dusk Fleischmann Planetarium at dusk, 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1970
Front view
Front view The Fleischmann planetarium from the front. Source: Nevada Historical Society
Retro controls
Retro controls Control panel inside the Fleischmann Planetarium, ca. 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1970
Atmospherium
Atmospherium "The Final Journey" exhibit next to the Atmospherium inside the Fleischmann Planetarium, ca. 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1970
Projector
Projector University President Charles Armstrong, second from left, with three unidentified men next to a projector machine in the Fleischmann Planetarium, circa 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1970
Projecting the night sky
Projecting the night sky Fleischmann Planetarium projector equipment, ca. 1970. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1970
Cherry Blossom Garden
Cherry Blossom Garden The Cherry Blossom Garden on the northwest side of the planetarium features Mt. Fuji cherry trees, azaleas, bamboo and ornamental grass. The garden was created in memory of Akiko Yamashita by her mother, Kiyoko, and in honor of Hasan Cesi. Akiko was a Japanese student at the university, 1989-1996. Hasan was her classmate from Turkey, 1988-1990. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Creator: Theresa Danna-Douglas

Location

Metadata

Wohamar O. Anni and Reno Historical Team, “Fleischmann Planetarium,” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/66.