The California Mission style is very simple, but classcially inspired, with thick masonry walls, painted white. The brick was manufactured on-site from local clay.
The original telescope is a marvel of Victorian engineering, and like much mechanical design of that era, it often exceeds today's standards of workmanship and applied science. While today we do marvels with computers and other electronics, we often neglect the more basic arts. Victorian engineers were typically far more concerned with beauty than our current functionalist designers. We forget that "form follows function" is criticism, and is not a theory of beauty.
The remains of James Lick, eccentric philanthropist, is entombed at the base of the telescope.
Courtyard of the observatory.
James Edward Keeler Sc.D.
Surveyed God's beauteous firmament unrolled
Like to a book new writ in golden words
And turned the azure scroll with reverent hand
And read to man the wonders God hath wrought
The observatory is located on the top of Mount Hamilton, east of San José and near the San Francisco Bay.