A BUILDING where people once looked to the heavens was part of a wider race for bragging rights between Bendigo, Ballarat and Castlemaine in the 19th century, according to a heritage application.
Planning authorities are publicly exhibiting information on the disused observatory in the backyard of 55 Condon Street as the City of Greater Bendigo presses for heritage protection.
It suggests private observatories like Condon Street's played a significant role in gathering scientific data as the 20th century dawned.
This was a period in which Bendigo, Ballarat and Castlemaine were "competing for supremacy" as Victoria's gold capital, according to historians quoted in the documents.
Historians cited in the documents said it was not surprising that each town boasted its own observatory as the rivalry unfolded.
All three had a telescope that was considered large by the national standards of the time, they suggested.
Castlemaine's observatory was demolished in 1886 following its owners' death.
Ballarat's observatory is still standing and has been managed by the city's astronomical society since 1958.
Bendigo's observatory was built in 1900 and is today considered one of the last remaining private observatories from the era.
It was also where Bendigo's weather was officially recorded between 1908 and 1914 and was built by celebrated architect John Beebe.
The architect used the observatory to locate Halley's Comet as it passed on its 75 year round trip in 1912.
Beebe also tracked Comet Gale there for research that was later published in the Journal of the British American Astronomical Association.
Part of the observatory's central dome can still be opened, according to the heritage application documents.
Historians believe the same site displays evidence of an even older building. They believe it could have been a miner's cottage built between 1867 to 1997.
Council staff originally considered applying for an interim heritage overlay for the site in 2019 when it went on sale, but the owner withdrew the site from sale.
Officers had planned to consider the property in a later heritage study but moved early because it went back on the market.
The heritage application documents can be viewed on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's planning scheme amendments page.
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