Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

In June 2018 the Georgia Historical Society dedicated a historical marker in Chatham Square to Louis B. Toomer, which read in part "Louis Burke Toomer, African-American leader, local bank founder, and realtor, was born in Savannah in 1897. Raised and educated locally, Toomer established the Georgia Savings and Realty Corporation on February 23, 1927, in the historic black business district on West Broad Street. During segregation, the company provided banking, investment, and insurance services for blacks who were not always allowed access to white banking establishments...." [1]

nass news 2019 april chatham square update

But before the historical marker was the Louis B. Toomer sundial in Chatham Square. As Georgia Wright Benton (past president of the Savannah Chapter of the National Conference of Artists) recalled:

"The sundial was dedicted in the spring of 1963 by the Savannah Chapter of the National Conference of Artists ... an organization comprised of black students throughout Chatham County along with their art teachers. West Broad Street School for black students was closed in 1962 and the pupils were transferred to Barnard Street School. Members of the National Conference of Artists visited the new school and one of our members observed that the park in front of the school, Chatham Square, needed improvement. Beautification of Chatham Square became a project for the organization, and the group decided to place a sundial in the square. We wanted something permanent that represented the black community in front of the Barnard Street school."

"The organization held several fundraisers to pay for the sundial. The primary fundraiser was a concert held in the Beach High School auditorium during the fall of 1962. Our concert artist was Kiah’s sister, a soprano singer. The fundraiser was a success and the sundial was purchased with help from Carver State Bank and Toomer’s wife, Janie. ... This sundial was the first dedication to an African-American in a Savannah square contributed by black students of a black organization." [2]

Over the years vandals have attacked and damaged the sundial. Each time, members of the Savannah-Chatham Historic Site and Monument Commission restored the sundial, " [making] a public plea for help and a reminder to the monument marauder that destruction of public property is a felony..." [3] You can see more of this dial in the NASS Sundial Registry (Georgia/Savannah #942).

[1] https://georgiahistory.com/events/historical-marker-dedication-louis-b-toomer-founder-of-carver-state-bank/
[2] https://www.savannahnow.com/opinion/20181129/letters-to-editor-friday-recalling-history-of-chatham-square-sundial
[3] https://www.savannahnow.com/news/2012-01-18/vandals-target-chatham-square-marker

On Wed, Oct 3, 2018 the six-foot-tall Cranmer Sundial and surrounding Plaza were rededicated, celebrating the completion of a $2 million renovation project that started nearly two years ago.  The city's Parks and Recreation Department replaced the cracked and sinking terrazzo plaza that was originally laid in the 1930s. They improved the drainage system that was a factor in the plaza's deteriation as well.

In 1941 George Cranmer placed a sundial of Chinese tradition on what was then called Mountain View Park.  But in 1966 the original Cranmer Sundial was blown up with dynamite.  The community rallied to raise funds and  through the Erickson Monument Company, erected a large 6-foot disk equatorial dial of pink granitie on a terrazzo plaza.  But the years did not treat the sundial well.  When the sundial fell into disrepair the community pulled together again, and through the organization The Park People started "Save Our Sundial" and began fundraising.  In all, citizens were able to raise $830,000 for the dial's repair.  The Denver City Council committed to the rest of the funding, but the restoration would not be possible without the financial support of the residence of Hilltop community.

At the dedication, City Councilwoman of District 5, Mary Beth Susman said, “To have it restored to what George Cranmer’s vision was ... meaningful to all of us,  and to have it restored in such a beautiful way, with the inlay still there, I can’t tell you how moving it is to celebrate this day.” [CBS News]

Read more:
https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/our-colorado/-2-million-project-restores-historic-denver-sundial-at-cranmer-park

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/10/03/hilltop-cranmer-park-sundial/

In Portland Oregon during the rennovation of Ulysses S. Grant High School an old brass sundial with only the remenant of a gnomon stood on a concrete pedestal ready to be turned into scrap metal and dust.  But now according to Portand KPTV "a group of veterans want to bring it back similar to its original state."  The dial, about 8 inches in diameter with Roman numerals from 5am to 7pm has the engraved inscription "Presented by Grant High School in Memory of the Grant High Boys Killed in Action in World War II"

KPTV Fox News 12 reporter Tyler Dumont interviewed Daniel Thompson, "We're going to restore it and make it a part of the future of Grant High School,"  He and other contractors, all veterans, formed a group to restore it for the school's opening in the summer of 2019. Thompson continued, "As a veteran, all the veterans feel like remembering the wars that were fought and the wars we're still fighting - it's important that everybody, every student, does not forget that."

Tyler Dumont  summed it up: "A historic piece of patriotism and honor at Northeast Portland’s Grant High School: this sundial is in memory of 101 former Grant students that were killed in World War II. After years of vandalism & aging, a group of veterans are set to restore it." pic.twitter.com/5NsibjDTfp

See KPTV's video of the sundial and interview at: https://www.kptv.com/news/group-restoring-historic-sundial-honoring-veterans-at-portland-high-school/article_9d2d432a-b52d-11e8-a26e-c3d447a6d595.html

Damage to Erickson Equatorial Sundial in Cranmer Park, Denver, CO.  Photo Credit: Save Our Sundial

In 1941 George Cranmer undertook to place a sundial of Chinese tradition in Mountain View Park (now Cranmer Park) in the area of Hillside, Denver.  Dan Babcock and Stephen Ionides of Erickson Monument Company translate the Chinese characters into Arabic. Unfortunately the dial was dynamited by vandals in 1966, and through the Erickson Monument Company, a large 6-foot disk equatorial dial of pink granitie was erected on a terrazzo plaza.

Climate and a sinking foundation led to the deteriation of the dial and plaza.  In June 2014 the CIty of Denver committed $545,000 to restor the Cranmer sundial and plaza through the Parks and Recreation and the Arts and Venues departments with the proviso that the citizens raise another million dollars.

A group local group of neighbors orgainized as The Park People started "Save Our Sundial" and began fundraising.  By April 2017 they raised $680,000 that will augment the city's set aside of $870,000 for the project. 
See: https://www.denverite.com/looks-like-cranmer-park-sundial-will-saved-33833/

The Denver Patch reports that a total of $2 million is available for the project.  Denise Sanderson, "a local advocate and organizer for the park restoration"  created the "Save Our Sundial" project which is run by The Park People with Executive Director Kim Yuan-Farrel.  City coordinator is Lauri Dannemiller, Executive Director of Parks & Recreation City & County of Denver.   The restoration would not be possible without the financial support and community activism of the residence of Hilltop community.  Neighbors met Monday, Dec. 18 to celebrate the beginning of the reconstruction at Cranmer Park which will begin in early 2018 and completed by late fall 2018 if seasonal weather permits.
See: https://patch.com/colorado/denver/sundial-repair-denvers-cranmer-park-begin

In January of this year we reported that the Malta 1695 vertical sundial on the wall of the Jesuits' Church, next to the Old University entrance on St. Paul Street in Valleta was in severe disrepair.  Alexei Pace reports that "restoration of the 1695 sundial in Valletta, has now been completed. All the vegetation and fungal growth/mold has beeen removed and the stonework re-pointed."

Olympic SundialJim Camden of The Spokesman-Review on 17 July 2017 reported that in Olympia, Washington, "Time has come for some restoration work on the Capitol sundial"

The Olympian dial has eight bas-relief panels depicting events in Washington State's history including the discoveries of Captain George Vancouver in 1792, the Medicine Creek Treaty between the US and Puget Sound Native Americans in 1854 and the first railroad to Puget Sound, built in 1883. This beautiful hammered brass dial by John Elliot was installed on 23 January 1959 (http://www.des.wa.gov/services/facilities-leasing/capitol-campus/memorials-and-artwork/territorial-sundial)

But the dial has had some hard times.  In the mid 1990's the sundial's bronze gnomon was damaged by vandals, and now the sundial is headed for refurbishment with a new stronger gnomon and repairs to the panels where the dial face is bent and cupping.  And to improve the sundial's time telling accuracy, the sundial's base and anchoring system will be improved to ensure thedial face is flat and fully horizontal.

The project is included in the operating budget of  the Public and Historic Facilities funds for 2017-19, which is designated for care of campus memorials and artwork. The sundial restoration work is expected to cost less than $10,000 and will be complete in late fall of 2017.

Read more at: http://www.des.wa.gov/about/news-media-center/capitol-campus-sundial-be-removed-repairs-week-july-17

Nearly 100 years ago on Dec. 3, 1918 the state of Illinois through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs Clarence Griggs provided a horizontal sundial to the Ottawa Boat Club "so that future generations may know that on this spot once stood Abraham Lincoln performing his duty as a soldier and patriot".  His journey north occuring in 1832 when he visited Ottawa as a volunteer soldier in the Black Hawk War. 

Now the Ottawa Historic Preservation Commission would like to refurbish the memorial in time for next year’s Illinois bicentennial.  In the photo from www.mytimes.com taken several years ago, the dial had been generally neglected and the gnomon gone missing.  Now the entire dial is missing.  The historical commission is hoping the brass dial plate will be returned, preferable to City Planner Tami Huftel at the Ottawa City Hall. It will be accepted with no questions asked. Huftel can be called at 815-433-0161, ext. 240.

Cranmer Park and the Erickson Equatorial Sundial are now scheduled for rennovation.  The original Erickson dial was installed in 1941. Cranmer wrote in 1950 that "the sundial is only seventeen seconds of time East of the 105th Meridian on which Mountain Time is based, and since the whole setting is so accurate, one can set his watch by it." But in 1965 vandals blew the dial apart with dynamite.  The community rallied, and by 1966 the Erickson company made and installed a copy of the original dial

But climate and a sinking foundation led to the deteriation of the dial and surrounding terrazzo plaza. Back in June, 2014 The City of Denver generously committed $545,000 to the restoration of the Cranmer sundial and plaza through the Parks and Recreation and the Arts and Venues departments with the proviso that citizens raise another million dollars.

A group called "Save Our Sundial" began fundraising and an article of support appeared on this North American Sundial Society website. To date the article has over 3500 views.  More important, the “Save Our Sundial” project, has now raised $680,000.  According to Andrew Kenny of the Denverite, "One major donor, the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation Trust, is led by a descendant of Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, whose administration built much of the park."  The City Council has now increased its committment to $870,000.

The Denverite quotes Mark Tabor, assistant director for planning that "The city will have to put the contract before Denver City Council and hopes to start construction this year, with a likely 6 to 8 month construction process."  And from Denise Sanderson, a local advocate and organizer for the park restoration, "So, what we’re doing is we’re reconstruction the whole thing – taking it down to the ground, building a foundation and building a drainage system," including repair of the chipped sundial and restoration of the inlaid terrazzo depiction of the Rocky Mountains landscape.

Read more at the Denverite: https://www.denverite.com/looks-like-cranmer-park-sundial-will-saved-33833/

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