The Abandoned Observatory In Westford – By Guest Host: William Duane

Sputnik Observatory Figure 2

Sputnik Observatory Figure 1

By William Duane:

I left a message for the owner, Russell LeDuke who was nice enough to call me back with the details which he knew.

The observatory was originally built in 1957 or 1958 at Loral Corporation in Lexington, Massachusetts, where Russell worked.  The observatory was built as part of the program to monitor Sputnik!

Russell said that originally the dome was much closer to the ground, and the entrance door was only 4-foot tall or so.  He stated that the observatory was originally on a square pad, with a large concrete pier in the center.  I asked if the observatory was originally used as a optical or radar observatory to monitor Sputnik, but Russell didn’t know.

Over the years the observatory fell into disrepair, and was used for storage.  Around 20 years or more ago, Loral was looking to get rid of the observatory, and Russell was interested. He reached an agreement with Loral to acquire it.

After helping to clean up the site, Russell dismantled the observatory and dome into segments and transported them to his property in Westford.  He said that he dismantled the observatory and transported it over a weekend.  When he returned to Loral after the weekend, he was told that he had ruined the pool at work.  It took a while for him to realize that they were running a betting pool on how long it would take him to dismantle the observatory and remove it.  The pool was running at around a week, when he was able able to do it over the weekend.

Russell originally owned part of the land where the Avalon Acton now stands.  He re-assembled the observatory further up the hill from where it now stands, and had to move it when he sold that land to the Avalon project.

Russell stated that the wood at the bottom where the structure sat on the pad had started to rot, so he cut off the bad wood with a chain saw, and built a the new bottom portion raising it from the original 4-foot to the current 8-foot height.  After re-assembling the observatory he has used it as a garden shed.

Russell said that if someone is interested in the observatory or dome they should contact him.  He stated that the dome still rotates, and that he has the motor and possibly other parts.  He also said that he was fine with people stopping to look at it, and recommended parking at Avalon Acton just above the dome and hiking down the hill to take a look.  He was fine with me passing on his contact information:

Russell LeDuke  (978) 263-7518

Sputnik Observatory in Westford


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