The Creation Pole Sundial

Image of grounds at Bucks 


Inspired by visits to Stonehenge and to monuments to the sun and moon in Mexico, I noticed while taking art classes at Bucks that the Creation Pole, recently erected in a large grassy area, was situated nicely to act as the vertical pointer for a sundial.  With encouragement from my art teacher, Charlotte Schatz, I approached Bruce Katsiff, Art Chair, with the idea in April 1989. Bruce was very supportive and got approval from Sally Mahon, chief of the Office of Physical Plant, with the proviso that any construction not interfere with mowing, and not decay into an eyesore.


Using the book Sundials - Their Theory and Construction by Albert Waugh as a guide, during the next five years I plotted points on the ground where the tip of the shadow of the Creation Pole fell at the exact times of the summer and winter solstices and of the spring and fall equinoxes. Because the Pole is vertical rather than aimed at the North Star as is a normal sundial pointer, only the tip of the shadow is used in telling the time. By May 1994 the locations of the solstice and equinox points for 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. were established well enough to be marked with cardboard and surveyor tape showing what the whole project might look like.  After a more realistic demonstration in November 1994, and with advice from Art Chair Frank Dominguez, we settled on a plan.  Most of the next year was spent trying to design clearly visible and durable markers for the hour lines. Mary Guidotti-Barbera helped me decorate and fire 100 6-inch porcelain tiles to label the hours, but we then had to discard them as too small and too sensitive to frost damage.  More advice and encouragement from Frank Dominguez led to the final design of blue-green cement numerals set into a white cement background.  This was approved by the Dean's Council in September 1995.


I spent much of 1996 in my basement, casting 25 of the 16x16x2 inch cement slabs for the equinox and solstice points and 112 of the 8x16x2 inch slabs for the hour lines. Then, at the sundial site, I dug 137 holes about 12 inches deep, filled them mostly with stone, and leveled a cement slab on top of each to mark the points and lines of the sundial.  Martin Snyder, from the Department of Physical Plant, cheerfully arranged for dirt to be hauled away and for stone to be delivered.  The last slab was placed in December 1996, just before frost. During 1997-2000 I adjusted the heights of the slabs: the high ones were damaged by mowers, and the low ones became overgrown with grass. With continued advice and coordination from Frank Dominguez, we purchased a stainless steel sign, designed by Ron Dorfman, explaining the Creation Pole and Sundial.  A support structure was built by John Matthews.

By Paul Zorn