Chabot Space & Science Center is the continuation and expansion of a public observatory that has served San Francisco Bay Area schools and citizens with astronomy and science education programs for over 115 years. The institution began in 1883 as the Oakland Observatory, through a gift from Anthony Chabot to the City of Oakland. The original Oakland Observatory was located in downtown Oakland, and provided public telescope viewing for the community. For decades, it also served as the official timekeeping station for the entire Bay Area, measuring time with its transit telescope.
The observatory moved to its Mountain Boulevard location in 1915 due to increasing light pollution and urban congestion. In the mid-1960s, the facility was expanded considerably with the addition of a 90-seat planetarium, science labs and classrooms, a library, workshops, and a small exhibit room. Throughout this time, the Chabot Science Center, as it was renamed, was staffed mainly by Oakland Unified School District personnel and volunteers. In 1977, seismic safety concerns terminated public school students’ access to the original observatory facility. The observatory building remained open to the general public, but school activities were limited to outlying classroom buildings and the planetarium.
Recognizing the need to restore full access to the facility, either by repair or relocation, in 1989 Chabot Observatory & Science Center (COSC) was formed as a Joint Powers Agency with the City of Oakland, the Oakland Unified School District, and the East Bay Regional Park District, in collaboration with the Eastbay Astronomical Society, and in 1992 was recognized as a nonprofit organization. The project broke ground in October 1996 and construction of the new Science Center began in May 1998.
In January 2000, anticipating the opening of the new facility, the organization changed its name from Chabot Observatory & Science Center to Chabot Space & Science Center. The new name was chosen to better convey the organization's focus on astronomy and the space sciences, while communicating both the broad range and the technologically advanced nature of programs available in the new Science Center.
Opening August 19, 2000, the new Chabot Space & Science Center is an 86,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art science and technology education facility on a 13-acre site in the hills of Oakland, California.