Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Lost Damaged & Restored Sundials

Some sundials go missing, others are blown up with dynamite or destroyed by vandals.  Fortunately some of these dials are recovered and restored

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 (

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:

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 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:

Back in February of 2017 the longstanding timepiece on Railway Street in Chatham was removed as part of Medway Council's plan to de-clutter the business district.  The dial was installed on October 21, 1994 to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson, who in 1805 achieved victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on a Chatham built ship. According to Lynn Cox ( at Kent Online, "Medway Council says the sundial is intact and in storage while its new location is decided....A council spokesman said: 'The sundial has been removed as part of our Chatham Place-Making works which involves de-cluttering the area and creating open spaces for pedestrians.' "  In another article by Kent Online, "A Medway Council spokesman said: 'This is all part of the Chatham placemaking project to improve the public realm and open up the route from the railway station through New Cut, St John's Square and Railway St and Military Road, down to the bus station.' "

It is not clear why the removal of the sundial, a visible attraction high above pedesterian traffic on the south wall of  Wetherspoon's Thomas Waghorn pub degrades open space and impedes pedestrian traffic.  Does the Council consider this memorial mere clutter and a blank wall more esthetic?   Or perhaps looking at the sundial for the time is more wasteful than looking at one's smart phone. Perhaps removing the pub sign or eliminating the overhanging street lights would be more appropriate to clearing Railway Street of clutter.  It appears that the Council has followed Johanathan Swift with a modest proposal to remove the Lord Nelson memorial sundial.

Mr. Chrisopher Daniel, designer of the vertical declining gnomonic sundial points out that unless the dial is realigned slightly off south using the declination of the pub's wall, the dial will no longer keep accurate time nor point to the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Lynn Coxof Kent Online records Mr. Daniel saying, “Frankly, it totally beggars belief that such an historic and fully recorded and registered heritage asset as this can apparently be summarily dismantled and, this done without any researched consideration as to how and where it might be relocated and more importantly, how it might be repositioned so that it operates exactly as before. Sundials of this accuracy are scientific instruments which have been designed solely and uniquely for the exact latitude and longitude of the location of the dial plate and also for that plate’s accurate azimuth and elevation.”

We implore the Medway Council to restore the sundial that has accurately told time and date for 23 years.

In Bellingham, WA there is a small, plain building with a 54 x 28 feet south facing wall. What kind of a vertical sundial can you imagine on that wall?  The Allied Arts of Whatcom County is making a request for proposals for "The International Bellingham Wall Sundial Mural Competition".  NW Sun Works, a small group dedicated to the creation of sundials and public artworks, is seeking artist proposals for a working vertical sundial and mural.  It is to be constructed on a south facing wall in Bellingham, WA. on a private building near the downtown core.  The project is open to any artist, muralist or sundialist, including teams of people who would like to work together.

Proposals may be made by artists, persons, or teams for:

  • submit a design proposal only
  • submit design proposal with ability to create the mural
  • submit design proposal with ability to do any mural and installation of sundial time telling elements.

If the winning design is a 'design proposal only', they will have local talent available to complete any work required for the sundial portion and for any mural/artwork involved. To demonstrate what a vertical, south facing sundial looks like, the group used the Sonna 4.01 software by Helmut Sonderegger (available at Sonne403 Sundialists Software) to present a deliniated vertical sundial for the Bellingham latitude of 48.75 deg at 2.48 degrees west of the 120th time zone meridian.

"Bellingham is a hidden jewel of Washington State filled with people who are forward thinking and enjoy the outdoors.  Protected by the North Cascade mountains and bumped right up to the bay, our views are speckled with island's, volcanic mountains, numerous lakes, thick mossy forests, and are surrounded by small farms.  Our city thrives on small businesses which fill our brick buildings thanks to our community which encourages handmade and locally sourced goods.  Bellingham is very unique, and we hope for the designs to reflect this vibe."

Read more at:

What do you do when your state's college Capitol Campus in Olympia, WA has a beautiful sundial designed by John Elliot, but a wimpy gnomon?  The dial has been subject to a poorly designed and vandalized gnomon since it was installed in 1958.  Now the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services "invites student designers to create a design for a functional, accurate, and aesthetic gnomon for the state's Capitol Campus sundial."  To be eligible for the design contest, students must be enrolled in a Washington State community or technical college. The contest encourages student teams and an honorarium of $1000 will be awarded for the winning design.

The gnomon must be made for the sundial latitude of 47 degrees, with a maximum base length of 39.5 inches (1003 mm) to fit the 6 foot diameter circular sundial with center offset gnomon . "Practical concerns such as strength, resistance to vandalism, ease of maintenance, cost, and method of attachment will also be important aspects of a winning design."  Esthetics of gnomon style, artistry, and content that blend with the sundial and capitol campus environment are important criteria.

Entries are due by February 24, 2017 and the winning design will be announced March 10, 2017.  Read more at :

Download this file (GnomonContestRulesAndCriteria.pdf)GnomonContestRulesAndCriteria.pdf[ ]58 kB

1695 Malta Dial on wall of Old UniversityIn a recent article by Michael Galea in the Times of Malta a sundial on the wall of the Jesuits' church, next to the Old University entrance on St. Paul Street in Valleta, may soon disappear if action is not taken.  The dial, one of the oldest in Malta was engraved onto the brick wall on August 13, 1695, and now "The heritage authorities are earnestly solicited to take immediate action to rescue this piece of history from destruction." 

Enternal light needs to shine upon this dial, for as the Latin motto reads "TEMPUS ERIT QUANDO CESSABIT TEMPUS ERITQUE LUX AETERNA BONIS NOX SINE FINE MALIS" or "There will be a time when time will cease and there will be eternal light for the good and endless night for the wicked."

Unfortunately in recent years the sundial has been neglected. The university is closed and building has other short term occupants. A dark stain from a rain spout obscures the right side and a brushy weed is growing in a chink between the stones. This dial is in need of some simple maintenance, weeding and cleaning.  But now scaffolding blocks the wall and we believe the dial is slated for destruction. 

Fortunately the architect responsible for the building restoration has been contacted with a proposal to restore the sundial and set a plaque with information about it at street level to draw attention to this fine Maltese sundial.  What will be the fate of this dial?  Hopefully not endless night.

Read about it at: and see more photos at