When he was a young man of 66, Fred Schleipman, now 88, saw the exquisite Porter Garden Telescope in a small museum in Springfield, Vermont. It was one of about twenty known originals built by Russell Porter in the 1920s, including one in the Smithsonian. The singular bronze instrument seduced him instantly. After many years of repeated efforts, he convinced the owners that he could remanufacture the telescope, as well as functionally improve upon it in a manner consistent with the museum’s high standards. His background in instrument making and unusual accomplishments in that regard had tipped the scales in his favor. An original was lent to to him and his son, Russ, from which they could design patterns and recast the complicated piece. They employed a renowned pattern maker, two optics engineers who craft systems for military satellites, and an excellent foundry whose work in bronze met our demands for both finish and dimensional stability.
The telescope is unique, a marriage of art and science in which neither is compromised. A beautiful art nouveau botanical sculpture and a very good and powerful reflecting telescope, it is an artistic installation and a very functional instrument. Because the optics are easily removed, it can reside outside permanently, a centerpiece in a landscape. It has captured the imagination of many, including Queen Elizabeth’s, at the Chelsea Flower Show.
The collaboration with father and son to create the telescope has been a labor of love. Their company, Telescopes of Vermont, shows an unwavering insistence on excellence. You can meet the Schleipmans, and the telescope, on the website, www.gardentelescopes.com.