In 1899 the Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory was built as part of an international project to measure the earth’s wobble on its polar axis.
The City of Gaithersburg and five other cities around the globe are linked by a unique scientific endeavor that began more than 100 years ago. They are all home to latitude observatories that tracked the wobble of the Earth on its polar axis through star readings to aid in navigation. Other observatories can be found in Cincinnati, Ohio; Ukiah, California; Mizusawa, Japan; Kitab, Uzbekistan; and Caligari, Sardinia, Italy.
The Observatory operated from 1899 to 1982, when satellites replaced human observers. It is still active, however, with GPS systems using survey markers installed on these grounds to make periodic course corrections. Fully restored in the 1980s, the observatory building, the meridian mark pier, and the five geodetic monuments scattered throughout the park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.