Apollo Astronauts at UNC

Apollo Astronauts at Morehead Planetarium, 6 June 1966

This homage to the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon is posted at the approximate time Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the lunar surface.  Did you know, however, that before Armstrong made that famous footprint, he—and almost every National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut—walked the grounds of UNC-Chapel Hill?

From 1959 through 1975, Morehead Planetarium hosted an astronaut training program designed to teach stellar constellation recognition and stellar navigation.  Neither Neil Armstrong nor Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.—the first two men to walk on the moon—appear in this photograph, but both attended the training program on subsequent dates within the next few weeks.  In total, Aldrin attended five training missions and Armstrong completed eleven at Morehead between 1964 and 1969, and the two trained together in the program twice, once in 1968 and once 1969.

In the photograph above by Wolf Witz from the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection (negative 28733), twenty-one astronauts, about a month after their induction into the NASA space program, line a staircase at Morehead Planetarium on 10 June 1966, encircling an exhibit panel labeled “In Our Lifetime . . . .”  The negative and photographic prints in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives have no identifications, but we know from the Web page “Astronauts Who Trained at Morehead Planetarium and the Missions They Flew” that the following astronauts are in the photograph:

  • Vance D. Brand
  • John S. Bull
  • Gerald P. Carr
  • Charles Conrad Jr.
  • Charles M. Duke Jr.
  • Ronald E. Evans
  • Edward G. Givens Jr.
  • Fred W. Haise Jr.
  • James B. Irwin
  • Joseph B. Kerwin
  • Don L. Lind
  • Jack R. Lousma
  • Thomas K. Mattingly Jr.
  • Bruce McCandless II
  • F. Curtis Michel
  • Edgar D. Mitchell
  • William R. Pogue
  • Stuart A. Roosa
  • John L. Swigert Jr.
  • Paul J. Weitz
  • Alfred M. Worden

How many of these men made it to the moon?

The moon as projected inside Morehead Planetarium.  Photographer Richard McKee.

(The moon as projected inside Morehead Planetarium, 6 July 1962.  The man in the lower left corner is probably planetarium director A. F. Jenzano.  Photographer Richard McKee, UNC Photography Laboratory Collection, negative 23170.)

Notes on the Built Environment: the High Point Chamber of Commerce and Winston-Salem’s Big Coffee Pot

I recently came across the postcard of the High Point’s Chamber of Commerce offices, otherwise known as the  “World’s Largest Bureau of Information.”  It’s a linen postcard, which dates it to ca. 1930-1945.  Benjamin Brigg’s 2008 book on The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina provides a good history and analysis of the building.

The building was originally built in 1926 in the shape of a chest of drawers with a mirror-like piece to highlight the city’s position as the prominent place of furniture production in the US.  Molding and paint were used to create the drawers on the building’s facade, which originally featured a floral decorations, and a sheet of metal was used to make the mirror.  On the inside, the walls were covered in panels of different popular woods used in High Point’s furniture industry.  This outlandish design was made even more significant by its location in a highly trafficked area of downtown in Tate Park.

The card above shows the Chamber of Commerce as it looked during the inter-war period, but by 1951, the Chamber of Commerce had outgrown the original building and moved from Tate Park to a new location on Hamilton Street.  The new bureau was more streamlined than the first, reflecting new trends in furniture design.  The building was revamped several times during its history.  The post-WWII design featured only gold trim, but the 1996 version is particularly charming, with two socks spilling out of a half-opened drawer, referencing High Point’s position in both the furniture industry and the hosiery industry.

The High Point Chamber of Commerce is a prime example of how architecture changed with American roadside culture.  It’s playful, using a pun to draw a direct association between the structure and the civic department housed there – the building becomes its own sign.  It also explicitly makes a statement about the social trends of furniture design as well as the city’s changing identity without using abstractions or “high art.”  And both locations of the building were highly accessible (and visible) to people traveling by car.

While this type of architecture became literally iconic with the rise of car culture, there are other examples that date back much earlier.  For example, the larger-than-life coffee pot in downtown Winston-Salem was built in 1858 by tinsmiths Julius and Samuel Mickey to advertise their shop.  It’s not a building, but it is a unique way to announce their tin shop.  They huge, well-crafted tin coffee pot to speak for itself – no slogans are used, no shop hours are listed, no praises are sung.

The book Looking beyond the highway : Dixie roads and culture is an interesting collection of essays on similar issues across the South.