G6. Sam Hill Mansion

Directions:

Head south on 24th Ave E; after 0.9 mi, turn right onto E Aloha St. After 0.8 mi turn right onto 10th Ave E; after 0.3 mi take the second left onto E Highland Dr. The house (No. 814) is on your right after ~300 ft (100 m) with the dial plainly visible from the sidewalk.


    If you have time, check out nearby Volunteer Park with its views towards Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, especially as seen from the marvellous abstract sculpture “Black Sun” (1969) by Isamu Noguchi. Also in the Park and well worth visiting (if you have even more time!) are the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Conservatory. To reach the Park head back south one block on 10th Ave E, turn left on E Prospect St, again left on 15th Ave E, and find the Park entrance on your left after about 0.2 mi.

View Seattle Sundial Trail in a larger map

        This is the oldest extant dial in Seattle, on the venerable Sam Hill Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sam Hill (1857-1931) gained his money first by marrying the daughter of James J. Hill (no relation), “Empire Builder” and founder of the Great Northern Railway. Later he had many financial and business successes of his own. Although the mansion was built to be his primary residence, in fact he didn’t live in it very much because his wife and kids lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sam, meanwhile, travelled around a lot, and lived in Portland, Oregon for most of his later days. He was eccentric and liked to build large concrete structures – today we still have his Maryhill Mansion in Goldendale, Washington (now a Museum of Fine Arts with a collection based on donations from Queen Marie of Romania, with whom Sam was friends); his ersatz “Stonehenge,” also in Goldendale on bluffs overlooking the Columbia River; and the International Peace Arch (1921) on Interstate 5 on the Canada/USA border in Surrey/Blaine. His Seattle mansion is also heavily concrete, on the side of a steep ravine on Capitol Hill.
    The sundial is sturdy, plainly designed, and not remarkable apart from its historical connection. It appears to be somehow incorrect (readings are off by as much as 20 minutes from solar time). Moreover, its motto is not even good doggerel:

I mark no hours not bright
Stedfast [sic] thru gloom I stand
Waiting till God command
To shine on me his light.

    Also on the dial is the name “Rowland Hazard,” an industrialist friend of Sam’s, who had a similar dial on his mansion in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. The Hazard family were civic and business leaders throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, all of the men being confusingly named Rowland, but our designer’s dates were 1885-1918 and he was an executive of the Solvay Processing Co. (The designer’s sister Caroline was a President of Wellesley College, and his son became one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.)
According to pp. 67-9 of Alice Morse Earle’s Sun-dials and Roses of Yesterday (1902), a similar Hazard sundial was installed in 1891 on the old wall of the Franciscan Mission in Santa Barbara, California.
    
    Information: Sam Hill: The Prince of Castle Nowhere (John E. Tuhy, 1983) (see p. 105 re the sundial)

Sam Hill    http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5072

Queen Marie visits Seattle (1926) http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7178


Last seen:  2004

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