Griffith Observatory


Griffith Observatory


Who doesn’t dig space and a chance to see what’s going on up there live?   Top that with a Hollywood story about the man responsible for donating the funds for it. It’s an American Dream tale of an immigrant who rose to wealth only to fall in tragedy with the drunken stupor attempted murder of his own wife!


The original building cost about $655,000 and opened in 1935. The expansion in 2006 cost a whopping $93 million! The land and money to build the observatory was donated by Griffith J. Griffith, an immigrant from the UK, who by the age of 32, had become a millionaire after investing in the mining industry. Griffith gave back to the community by donating the Griffith Park land and upon death, left his estate to the city in order to build the Observatory. Griffith’s American Dream however, was not all that. Griffith became a delusional alcoholic and instead of being loved by the people, became a hated figure, especially after he attempted to murder his wife in a drunken stupor. She managed to live, but lost an eye. The couple divorced and Griffith eventually died of liver disease.


2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(213) 473-0800

Admission to the building, grounds, and parking is FREE as the Griffith’s intended. Hours are Tue- Fri 12 noon – 10pm and Saturday/Sunday, 10am – 10pm

Great views, free public telescopes, planetarium shows [some charge a fee], live events, and interactive exhibits on the history of astronomy, planets, the phases of the sun, moon, tides and more.

The Observatory also has a live streaming channel showcasing major stellar events.

The Full Scoop


Griffith Jenkins Griffith was born in South Wales, UK and immigrated to the US when he was 15. He made his way to California and first started as a reporter on the mining industry. With insider insight, he got in on the action investing in mining companies.



Griffith, age 32 moved to Los Angeles, a millionaire and he bough 4,000 acres what is now knows as Griffith Park and Los Feliz.



Griffith married 23-year-old Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer (Tina), whose family were land barons and they had one child Van M. Griffith the following year.



Griffith wanting to give back to the city in which he prospered, donated 3,015 acres for public rest and relaxation. But this is where the good old American Dream story takes a turn for the worse. Griffith was a drunk and an egomaniac with increasingly paranoid delusional behavior that escalated in one fateful night.



Vacationing in Santa Monica, a Hollywood type story unfolded at the Arcadia Hotel. Drunk and deluded into thinking his wife was trying to poison him, he shot her in the head. Miraculously he head jerked and the bulled passed through her left eye allowing her to throw herself out a window, falling two stories onto an awning…alive.



Divorced. Clearly. And Griffith goes to jail for only two years based on an “alcohol insanity” plea.



Griffith died of liver disease. Shocking. He had attempted twice to donate additional money to the city which was rejected, mostly due to public animosity towards Griffith. In the end, he had his wish, donating the majority of his $1.5M estate to the city which then built Griffith Observatory, opened in 1935.


Where are they Now?

While most people today are unfamiliar with the great story behind the observatory, memories of the Griffith’s still exist. In 2011, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers bought Van Griffith estate, built in 1925. News stories report he was selling it in 2014 for $6.8 million. Great grandson, Griffith Van Griffith and family are still around in the California area and have been actively involved in trying to protect the park from over commercialization.