This building was originally a 19th Century jeweller’s shop and family home. Its connection with the identification of the Eureka, South Africa’s first authenticated diamond, in 1867, prompted De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited to purchase the building and restore it in 1981-1982, to commemorate the beginnings of the country’s diamond industry.

It was opened on 2 February 1982 by Mr H F Oppenheimer of De Beers, and was formally presented to the Museum Trustees to become part of the Albany Museum’s Cultural History division. The original owner-designer of the Observatory, Henry Carter Galpin, was a watchmaker and jeweller who lived in Grahamstown from 1850 until his death in 1886. His special interests – optics, astronomy and the measuring of time – are impressively reflected in this gracious multi-storeyed building.

In the topmost tower is the only Victorian Camera Obscura in the Southern Hemisphere. Through the system of lenses and mirror in the revolving turret in its roof, this ingenious device projects an enchanting full colour live panorama of the town and its activities onto a flat viewing surface in a darkened room. Beneath it, Galpin built a Meridian Room where he could ascertain the precise time of local noon – 14 minutes behind South African standard time.

The nearby Telescope Room contains his 8-inch reflector telescope which was initially installed in the rooftop observatory, from which the house got its name. On the Victorian Floor, five rooms of fine furnishings recapture the atmosphere of an upper middle class home of the time. Display panels detail the award-winning restoration project which returned the building to Galpin’s original plan.

The Diamond Story display tells the story of the identification of South Africa’s first authenticate diamond and a full-size replica of the Eureka diamond is its sparkling focal point. In the basement a Victorian kitchen and dining room have been restored and a herb garden adds interest out-of-doors.

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