The observatory was completed in 1844 though the equatorial telescope did not arrive and was not mounted until 1849. It featured a large central section capped by a revolving dome 18-feet in diameter. At the west end of the building was a transit instrument room with a north-south slit in the roof. Opposite the transit room was an office.
The transit room contained Troughton and Simms transit circle with a 4-inch objective and a focal length of 5-foot and used a 4-foot circle readable to a single arc second.
The equatorial instrument was a Troughton and Simms 8-inch refracting telescope and was housed in the main dome.
The University of Alabama was destroyed by a Federal raid led by General John Croxton on April 4, 1865. The observatory alone escaped the flames because it was located away from the main body of the campus.
Though the observatory and instruments had been damaged in the raid, the telescopes and observatory were still usable for teaching purposes until the 1890s. It is unclear when the observatory stopped being used.
The building itself stands today and houses the Computer Based Honors Program.