Secrets of the Hartness House

Hartness Underground Workshop and

Hartness-Porter Museum

James Hartness and Russell W. Porter at Jones and Lamson factory
James Hartness and Russell Porter

The Hartness House was built by former Governor of Vermont, engineer, chief executive officer, inventor and wealthy industrialist James Hartness.   This country inn is unique in that it features its own museum, astronomy observatory and antique telescope with a unique equatorial drive system.  More unusual is the secret tunnel system built by Hartness to access the observatory, museum and his secret workshop.

Guests of the Hartness House Inn have an opportunity to tour the secret tunnel, view the private workshop of Mr. Hartness, and see the observatory and telescope.  Guided tours are given by reservation only to guests of the Inn and by private invitation of the owners and Stellafane club members.

The Secret Underground WORKSHOP of James Hartness

The Hartness secret underground tunnel was built in 1912.  At that time, James Hartness also built an extensive secret underground room complex.  More than 10 rooms comprise this private santcuary that Hartness built to provide imself with a quiet workplace.  In James Hartness' lifetime he was granted 119 patents for many inventions -- several of which provided him with the wealth he is known for.

In February 1924, Popular Science magazine did a feature article on the underground system of rooms and tunnels including this drawing of the underground network of rooms and tunnels..

The Hartness-PORTER
Astronomy Museum

In 1973, Stellafane, formerly the Springfield Telescope Makers Club, place their museum in the Hartness underground apartments.  Today, the collection spans four rooms and showcases more than 14 telescopes, historical instruments, artist watercolor and oil paintings, photographs, drawings and illustrations.  The collection chronicles the contribution of Russell Porter in Springfield Vermont and later at the Hale Observatory in Mount Palomar, California.

The Hartness-Porter Museum
fetures two telescopes made by early members of the Springfield Telescope Makers Club: Oscar Fullam and Frank Whitney.   Both telescopes illustrate superior quality workmanship.

Entrance to secret Hartness underground tunnel

Oscar Fullam and telescope
Oscar Fullam and his telescope

Frank Whitney and his telescope
Frank Whitney and his telescope

Several examples of Hartness and Porter patented inventions are on display.

Here examples of the Hartness Sundial and the Porter Garden Telescope..

Main secret tunnel, secret forbidden door

The museum has an authentic meteorite on display.  Measuring just over 12 inches in length, it weighs just over 62 lbs. and is composed of unusually dense lead and iron compounds.

The meteorite was found in 1923 by James Hartness in Otngewiso, Canyon Diablo, Arizona.

Dark secret tunnel, spiders, cold, scary

Russell W. Porter   1871 - 1949

Architect, optical engineer, painter and scupltor, arctic explorer, inventor, telescope-maker and "amateur astronomer."

Porter was an arctic explorer between 1894 and 1905, traveling north with Peary, Fiala and others.  His Pole attempts failed but he did explore and map virgin terriorty and paint superb portaits of Eskimos before settling down at Port Clyde, Maine.

Porter designed and built his own astronomical telescopes and observatories and published articles on the subject fwhich attracted considerable attention among people eager to follow his example.

James Hartness was his mentor and Porter came to Springfield in 1919 to help Hartness develop his optical comparator at the Jones and Lamson Machine Company.

In 1929 he was invited to join the team assembled to begin the enormous task of creating and erecting the Hale 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain in Southern California.  TheThe split-ring mount that was finally selected for the world's largest telescope at that time can be traced to the Porter Carden Telescope designed by Porter.

An inquiring mind, inventiveness, and a basic humility despite his talents, made Porter a beloved figure to hundreds of amateurs who look up telescopes making under his aegis.

Secret tunnel, dark and humid

Russell Porter Springfield telescope

The Porter Garden Telescope  

An excellent example of the Porter Garden Telescope is on display in the museum.

The telescope was first seen in a watercolor drawing dated 1921 by R. W. Porter.  The US Patent office issued a patent 1,468,973 to Mr. Porter on September 23, 1923 for the Porter Garden Telescope.

Built of solid bronze the telescope is a fine example of the merging of art and science.  A remarkable object of art, the Garden Telescope is also a functioning reflector telescope and working Right Ascension and Declination movements.

Built by Jones and Lamson Company in the early 1920's.

Several advertisements from February and March 1924 illustrate the advertising done by Jones and Lamson to sell the Garden Telescope.


"The America" a stained glass artwork by Russell Porter.

The America was frozen in the ice in Franz Josef Land before it was crushed by the ice floes and sank.  Porter and the entire expedition was stranded for two years in the arctic from 1903 to 1905.

The stained glass was done some time during Porter's residence in Port Clyde, maine, and was originally fit into a window of his stone guest house, "The Castle".  The original size is 18 1/2" by 47 inches.

It has since been remounted in a window of "The Castle" which has been restored by artist Greg Mort.

The Improved Sundial is and invention by James Hartness. It was patented in 1917.

This modified sundial attempts to improve timekeeping by making the shadow representaion more accurate. The accuracy is improved by curving the shadow platen to beter match the curved path that the sun travels.

Secondly, the shadow platen can be raised and lowered according to the day of the year to match the earth's relative position to the sun in its orbit around the sun.

Hartness displayed his different sundial designs on the lawns of the Hartness estate.

The second room of the museum chronciles the history of Porter and the Springfield Telescope-Makers Club from the mid-1920's to the 1950's.






There are many illustrations of the Hale Observatory drawn by Russell Porter that illustrate the workings of the observatory.

Second room of
Hale Observatory by Russell Porter

The Porter Springfield Telescope is on display here.  This is the prototype to the Russell Porter Springfield Mount Telescope built by Oscar Marshall, circa 1920.

The Springfield Telescope is unique in its mounting and it unusual "microscope-type" eyepiece holder.

Porter Springfield Mount Telescope
Oscar Marshall at Porter Springfield Mount Telescope

Directly in back of the telescope is the original oil painting of the Springfield Mount Telescope and the cover of the Sciencitic American magazine cover where it was featured in March 1926. 

The original oil painting by Horace Brown is on display.

The Hale Spectrohelioscope was invented by Dr. George E. Hale for observing the entire surface of the Sun at any given wavelenght using a diffraction grating..

This is the model built by the Springfield Telescope Maker members.

Hale Spectrohelioscope

Drawing of Spectrohelioscope invented by George Hale

Six-inch reflector telescope was built in 1920's by Oscar Marshall, R. W. Porter and E. H. Redfield..

Example model of a Cassegrain Telescope illustrates the principles of Cassegrain mirror reflection path.

Cassegrain Telescope

The museum features a number of display cases that illustrate the various stages of telescope-making.

The display case illustrates the method of manyfacturing various types of telescope mounts.  The wooden forms were carved to shaped and are used to form investment sand casts that molten metal will be flowed into.  Once the metal cools, the cast is taken apart and a rough casting of the mount is revealed.  Rough castings are then machined to dimensions that are needed.


Suspended from the ceiling is the Boston Commons Telescope that has been seen on the Boston Commons since 1891.

This telescope is a gift of John W. Briggs in 2004.


John M. Pierce was a charter member of the Springfield Telescope Makers.  Pierce began selling telescope making supplies in 1925.

This telescope highlights an example of a telescope kit that could be purchased for $140 in the 1920's.

This telescope kit would arrive in the mail sent in a sturdy wooden box.

The kit would include everything that was necessary to assemble a functioning telescope.

Eskimo Girl is a watercolor painted by Russell Porter in 1896.


Eskimo Girl, watercolor 1896, Russell Porter

Cutting Up Walrus is a watercolor painted by Russell Porter in 1896.


Cutting Up Walrus, watercolor, 1896, Russell Porter

Watercolor by Russell W. Porter .








Orange Merchantsin North Africa, 1947, pastel by Russell W. Porter .

Russell Porter watercolor painting

Orange Merchants, 1947, pastel, Russell Porter

Garden of the Gods , Zion National Park is a pastel drawing by Russell Porter from 1929.


Russell Porter was an accomplished scupltor.

Russell Porter and Fred Fenson carved wood models to be used for these bronze casting in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Brnze medallion by Russell Porter

Bronze Statue by Russell Porter

Bronze and lead model of Hale Observatory by Russell Porter

The museum illustrates telescope making and the necessary tools with a variety of displays and showcases.

This display showcase illustrates the various tools, instruments, supplies and equipment needed for mirror and lens grinding and polishing.


Glass polishing equipment


The Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope and Observatory

In 1910, James Hartness built one of the most unique telescopes for an individual in the United States. The Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope employs a sophisiticated motor-drive, transmission system and clock drive to replicate the rotation of the earth. Using the equatorial drive system makes it possible to view heavenly objects over extended periods of time notwithstanding the rotation of the earth. 

The telescope and the observatory were completely engineered, designed and manufactured  by James Hartness in Springfield, Vermont with the exception of the turret dome which was manufactured in Massachusetts.

The Hartness Equatorial Turrent Telescope was  adwarded a US patent No. 1,045,142 on November 12, 1912.



The Observatory is accessed from Main House.  You follow the main tunnel to the end and ascend the spiral staircase at the end of the tunnel.

Entrance to observatory telescope with spiral staircase

Inside the Observatory, the temperature matches the outside temperature -- intensely cold in the winter and hot in the summers.

The observatory has the feel of a submarine -- cylindrical in shape with few portholes at one end.  Aligning the telescope is done by moving  the turrent and telescope by coordinates -- there is no visual reference of the outside.

The equatorial drive, visible in the center, is driven by an electric motor sitting underneath the viewing platform.  The telescope is mounted to the dome and the equatorial drive rotates the dome turret.

Inside telescope observatory

A closer view of the equatorial drive shafts illustrate the three shafts: clockwise-counterclockwise gear shift (left), main drive shaft (center), and the equatorial drive shaft (right).

The round object directly top center is the clutch that connects the motor drive to the clock system that will rotate the turret dome.

Lens are inserted into the telescope lens holder shown here. 

The telescope is moved in a north-south direction by turning the Declination gear shown here as the large disk.  A hand crank is inserted onto the spline protruding from the lower center of the image.  Turning the crank raises and lowers the telescope.  A vernier shows the amount of degrees of declination of the telescope.

Standing on the viewing platform, you can see the clockwork gear system that when engaged rotates the telescope turret in the opposite direction and speed of the earth's rotation.  When engaged, the movement is barely perceptable.