YERKES IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE YERKES!
The Yerkes Observatory is now officially closed. It went down on Monday, October 1, 2018, as was advertised.
Now what? Are there any new plans for Yerkes’ future? The talk around the lake is about some form of development getting ready to take place on the observatory property, with Mike Keefe being the motive force behind it. That rumor remains just a rumor though, although it keeps coming in from so many sources. What we do know is the building is being cleaned out; no more papers, no more books, no more staff or tour guests. The end, but what does that mean? It is likely that the University of Chicago will sell the property surrounding the old structure. It is also likely now that the university will not allow anyone to purchase or take over the operation of the building itself unless the name of the University of Chicago remains involved. The building is to be cleaned out and then sealed up until further notice. The Williams Bay community should begin going to work to hire legal talent in order to use eminent domain to take over the structure and do something with it. There is plenty of science to be done at that place and science pays these days; just ask Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Musk, or Mr. Bezos. It will remain surprising, for some time to come, that the highly touted teaching university was so capable of expressing almost no intellectual horsepower at all when it came to figuring out what needed to be done. The University of Chicago divorced Williams Bay. It is high time that Williams Bay got an attorney and started acting like the maltreated ex-spouse it has become.
The “friends of the Yerkes,” (small letters used on purpose) faded away with the observatory, in quiet wordless and, soon to be shabby, elegance. The departure of the University of Chicago from Wisconsin, Walworth County and the Village of Williams Bay, could not be more cowardly or timely. The Yerkes time was supposedly passed, and is not the University of Chicago’s time passed as well? The university is still open, however, the effect of its retreat from science in Wisconsin not yet affecting the core of the educational beast it has become. But cancer has a way of metastasizing and what happened with the mindset that has brought about not only the closing of the Yerkes but the attempted excision of it as a cancerous tumor on the body of Williams Bay may not be diagnosed yet but it is certainly there in the very core of the body of that institution.
Can the procedure of “eminent domain” be used to acquire the old building, drop the University of Chicago from its name, and then educationally repurpose the structure to become the Midwestern home it needs to be for a school in astrophysics? That question will remain in the hands of lawyers if lawyers, can and will be hired by the community in order to make the structure “whole” again, and also to allow it to be the anchor feature of the entire geographic region. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York the Freedom Tower, Italy has the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Geneva Lake and Southern Wisconsin, in general, has the Yerkes Observatory. Wisconsin still has the Yerkes and it is high time that Wisconsin began to act like it owes nothing except a border to Illinois. Many people come up from Illinois to enjoy the quiet ambiance of what is here in Wisconsin to welcome them. It is time they are allowed to visit (for a price) the Yerkes Observatory of Wisconsin. If that is to happen then it is going to have to happen because the people of Wisconsin, Walworth County and the Village of Williams Bay make it happen. It is fourth down with one yard to go on the goal line. A field goal won’t do. It’s time to go for it.