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Branches of Baltimore History

Peter Hamilton’s Sundial in Druid Hill Park

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In 1892, lawyer and businessman Peter Hamilton gifted Druid Hill Park and the city of Baltimore this peculiar sundial. Hamilton was a 19th Century stonecutter (much like Hugh Sisson) who became president of the Guilford and Waltersville Granite Company, the firm responsible for supplying the stone for the Library of Congress. After countless hours of calculations, Hamilton hand-carved the the hemispherical compendium dial, affixing shadow-casting metal gnomons to the completed sculpture. In 1904 the sundial was repaired and reset by the Board of Park Commissioners. The board had metal sheets placed over the sundial, protecting it from the elements.

When local resident George McDowell, a sundial enthusiast, heard about the relic he went to investigate. He found the dial to be mathematically incorrect and decided to personally oversee its 1993 restoration. Jacques Kelly interviewed McDowell for a Baltimore Sun feature in 1994.

With the city’s permission, he worked with local metal artist Larry Lewis to have the dial cleaned of years’ worth of dirt. Some of the gnomons had been vandalized. Others needed mathematical correction. Mr. Lewis fabricated replacement pieces.

Peter Hamilton’s restored sundial sits within the John Cook Memorial Rose Garden next to George Aloysius Frederick’s historic greenhouse. Built between 1887 and 1888, the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory (or Palm House) contains exotic plants from around the world.

Written by monumentcity

March 8th, 2011 at 9:22 am