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Did you know FSC has a Planetarium?

Jan 29, 2021
Student Reporter

How many people are actually aware that Florida Southern College has a Planetarium? If you have been in Lakeland long enough you might remember the iconic snowman, Dean Holiday, which sat atop the Planetarium peering over Lake Hollingsworth signifying the Christmas Season. But because of the Planetarium’s current condition, it has not been utilized for a number of years. So, what exactly will be done to bring it back to life? The main goal is to repair and restore the damages caused by years of water infiltration and thermal movement both inside and outside of the building. With the restored planetarium students will again be able to utilize this re-imagined space in ways that Wright couldn’t have predicted.

There are many parts to this restoration, but here are a few highlights. Throughout many years of the harsh Florida weather there has been damage to the textile blocks. These will be repaired by cast-stone mixes and techniques successfully employed on the campus. Windows will be cleaned, sealed and lacquered. Like most restorations all switches, outlets, and service panels will be upgraded to current codes. The paint on the walls will be replicated to match the original and the floors will be refinished to Wright’s classic “Cherokee” red. Modernizing the infrastructure is essential in order to meet the high standards of not only beauty and safety, but the practical uses that will be enjoyed for years to come.

There have been numerous requests through the years from the Polk County School District for fields trips to this iconic structure. Currently, when astronomy professor Dr. Ron Pepino receives these requests he must decline. After the restoration is complete, Florida Southern plans on creating a public group called “Friends of Space” which will financially support the instructional space programs that FSC will offer to the public. This educational programming will impact K-12 students in Polk County and the surrounding area not only to the wonders of space, but also the academic excellence and beautiful campus of FSC. What an incredible way to widen the reach of recruiting more of our local high school graduates. Ultimately though, our own students and those who are members of the FSC Astronomy Club will be able to utilize this space for viewings and presentations.

We can only imagine how satisfying it would be for Frank Lloyd Wright to know that his meticulously designed Planetarium was being practically used by students on a daily basis learning about the cosmos.