Begun as a WPA project in 1933, Griffith Observatory opened to the public in the spring of 1935. in accordance with the will of its benefactor, Griffith J. Griffith—who donated the surrounding 3000 acres of land to the city of Los Angeles in 1896—admission to the observatory is, & always has been free. Upon its completion, Griffith Observatory was only the third planetarium in the United States. Closed for major renovations from 2002 to 2006 the observatory is one of the most recognized landmarks in Los Angeles.
Mr. Griffith donated the funds for both the observatory & Griffith Park’s Greek Theatre. His donation, however, was blocked by the park council after his image as a philanthropist was tarnished when he attempted to murder his wife in 1903. He would eventually spend only 2 years in prison for the crime. A secret alcoholic for much of his life, Griffith died of liver disease in 1919 leaving the bulk of his fortune to the city of Los Angeles.