Y3. University of Washington (near Drumheller Fountain)


If you have the time, walk the 5 minutes from the Physics/Astronomy Building to the Drumheller Fountain, also called “Frosh Pond” (ask anyone for directions, or a campus map is here http://www.washington.edu/home/maps/southcentral.html?Drumheller+Fountain). This traditional horizontal dial is located in a flower patch by the Fountain, in the middle of Rainier Vista, a feature of the University of Washington (UW) campus that aligns with Mt. Rainier, about 50 miles away as the eagle flies. If you have further time, wander around the beautiful UW campus, especially checking out the huge, ornate Reading Room in Suzzallo Library, the cherry trees in the Quad (flowering usually in early April), and the Henry Art Gallery (contemporary art).

View Seattle Sundial Trail in a larger map

This dial, the second oldest extant in Seattle, was the graduating gift of the 260 seniors in the University of Washington’s Class of 1912. In the 1911-12 Tyee (yearbook) is found (p. 19): “We leave behind the first Senior memorial – the 1912 sun dial – as a token of what our University has been to us and what our Alma Mater always will mean.”
During their sophomore year, the University campus was taken over by the 1909 Alaska-Yukon Exposition, many of whose buildings remained on the campus long after. The Class’s official yell was:

Ho!  Wa!  Go!  Wa!
Keep On! Keep On!
1 – 9 – 1 – 2

    The dial itself is nicely engraved with raised hour lines and roman numerals for the hours, and the basalt plinth has large letters “THE CLASS OF 1912”. Unfortunately, however, the dial plate/gnomon combination is not as accurate as one would hope, being off by as much as 5-7 minutes. A ca 1910-20 postcard photo shows that the present gnomon is not the original one. In 2002 Larry Stark and Woody Sullivan made detailed measurements of the gnomon and plate, yet could not come to any conclusions as to why the hour lines and gnomon are wrong. They don’t seem to be consistent for any latitude, including Seattle’s! We even considered that the gnomon was incorrectly positioned on the plate, but this did not help.
    A small explanatory plaque with the corrections for longitude and the equation of time is on a separate short pole in the garden. The dial’s north-south alignment is noticeably discrepant from that of Rainier Vista, whch is aligned with Mt. Rainier, 102 km distant at an azimuth of 154°.

Past campus locations of this dial

1912 – the original location has not been able to be established, but a ~1910-20 postcard photo of the dial showing Denny Hall in the background indicates that it probably was not far from “Science Hall” (present Parrington Hall, built in 1902)

1952 – a photo shows it being moved, probably to a location on the site of present Red Square (see below), then a grassy area criss-crossed by pathways

1964 – article describes its location as (a) “between the library [Suzzallo] and Meany Hall [ this is old Meany Hall, located near present Henry Gallery]” and (b) “at the north end of a mall and facing the Administration Building [Gerberding Hall]”  (Sunday Pictorial Magazine of Seattle Times, 27 December 1964)

ca 1970 – Red Square, new Meany Hall, Kane Hall, Odegaard Library built; dial moved to a location inside a flower bed near flag pole at south end of Memorial Way, again close to Parrington

1995 - dial cleaned by Fabrication Specialties (FS)

2002 – dial refurbished and installed in new location (fourth?) by Larry Stark, Woody Sullivan, and Kurt Kiefer (Campus Arts Administrator) at south side of Drumheller Fountain. Stainless steel base and plaque added.

Last seen: 2009