Worcester Warner and Ambrose Swasey were industrialists who had founded a machine tool company which they moved to Cleveland in 1881. Both were amateur astronomers, going so far as to build an observatory with a 9.5 inch refracting telescope in the backyards of their adjacent homes. Their interest in astronomy led them to the Case School of Applied Science, today known as Case Western Reserve University. In 1919, they donated the telescope to the school, and built an observatory on a hill well outside the city limits of Cleveland. The Warner and Swasey Observatory was dedicated on October 12th, 1920.
Over the years the two were instrumental in upgrading the observatory, building a 24-36 inch Schmidt-type telescope and auditorium in 1939. The astronomy program continued growing, and a further addition was made in 1963. However, by the 1960's Cleveland had grown so large that light pollution was starting to make nighttime observation difficult. In 1979 and 1980, the telescopes were moved to other facilites, and in 1982, the program has moved to the campus of Case Western Reserve University. The empty building was sold in 1983 and has remained unused, aside from a brief attempt at renovating it into housing in 2005.