Following the construction of the Main Building and Winslow Laboratory, Rensselaer’s trustees began planning for a third instructional facility—an astronomical observatory. In order to erect the observatory more land was needed, and in 1877 the Ranken property, situated on the east side of Eighth Street across from the Winslow Building, was purchased. The property had a 150 foot frontage on Eighth Street and extended about 500 feet to the top of the hill. The purchase included a house and stable. The Ranken House was about 40 feet square by two stories high and built of brick. The building was used by the Department of Mechanics for recitation rooms and eventually to house the Institute’s first materials testing equipment. Both the house and stable were razed in 1910 when the Pittsburgh Building was erected.
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