It is delicious to think of the Seattle region as the sundial capital of North America, but that in fact is my goal. And I think it’s well on the way. The meaning of “sundial capital” will of course always be open to debate, but for me it designates “having the most interesting and enjoyable collection of a large number of sundials.” What I find interesting and enjoyable is a strong mixture of astronomy, art, history, innovation, design, good preservation, and ready public access.
I do not deny that it does drizzle once in a while in this part of the world; west of the Cascade Mountains, where most folks in the Northwest live, we get a lot of cloudiness, as shown in the following plot for Seattle.
I thus felt compelled to post this ditty below the University of Washington Physics and Astronomy wall dial:
I thrive on the sun
Can’t work in the rain
So if I’m beclouded
Please come back again.
Large wall sundial on the Physics/Astronomy Building of the University of Washington, Seattle (1994) (Seattle map #1).
This website and its associated Google Maps are designed to catalog all of the sundials (and some related public art) found in the “Northwest,” defined as the states of Washington and Oregon and the province of British Columbia. I will soon have split them into five separate listings/maps of dials (“sundial trails”), with the following parameters in my Aristotelian cosmos centered on Seattle:
City of Seattle
Seattle region (out to a radius of ~30 miles (50 km))
State of Washington
State of Oregon
Province of British Columbia
For each dial I give details and commentary about its history, design, materials, state of repair, makers and funders, and location; many photographs are also included. The amount known about the dials varies greatly from one to the other; I invite knowledgeable surfers to send me further information, as well as to correct mistakes [woody [AT] astro dot washington dot edu]. My aim is to make the listings interesting to all, whether or not able to see these dials in person. For each of the sundial trails, I have also ranked them on the Google Map with different-colored icons. Blue dials are deemed to have the most interest; if you have more time, visit the red ones, too. Yellow dials are more conventional.
If you are able to visit these dials, I include suggestions for the order in which to tour them, aspects of access, etc. I include directions only when they are beyond the ken of Google/Mapquest, for example, on school campuses. In most cases, note that my Google Map placemarker has been put on the sundial’s location to within 100 ft (30 m) and often much better; note that “Satellite” overlay on Google Maps or Google Earth will often help you home in on an indicated dial. I also give geographical coordinates if you want to use a GPS system as you tour.
My muse, pictured right, is from the frontispiece of a 1643 French book on dialling. I call her “Mademoiselle Gno-monique” and she’s still inspiring after more than 350 years.
[The book is by Abraham Bosse and is entitled La maniere universelle de M. Desargues pour poser l’essieu et placer les heures et autres choses, aux cadrans au soleil [The universal method of Monsieur Desargues to position the gnomon and draw the hours and other things for sundials]