A $1.5 million project will save a hidden Denver treasure, the Cranmer Park sundial and terrace

The summer side of the sundial at Cranmer Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The summer side of the sundial at Cranmer Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) clock; time; sundial; cranmer park; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
The summer side of the sundial at Cranmer Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Great news, horophiles: Hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations are set to save the terrace and sundial of Cranmer Park, one of the hidden treasures of Denver’s parks.

Cranmer Park stands in the Hilltop neighborhood. When it was founded, it “was one of the highest points of elevation in the city and county of Denver,” said Denise Sanderson, a local advocate and organizer for the park restoration. It previously has been named Mountain View Park and Inspiration Point.

The park features a hundred-yard sandstone terrace, installed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. In 1941, its namesake, former parks director George Cranmer, had a six-foot sundial installed at the park’s center.

Unfortunately, the park hasn’t had an easy life. In 1965, vandals quite literally destroyed the sundial with dynamite – which is some Spider-Man-villain levels of weirdness – prompting the community to band together and buy a replica.

“It is accurate to 17 seconds,” Sanderson said. Pretty good for a hunk of rock. (A horophile, by the way, is someone who loves timekeeping devices. I learned that on S-Town and now I feel very smart.)

Anyway, time still has not been kind to the area, especially to the stone terrace, which was built on a base of rubble rather than a modern foundation with proper drainage.

“In Denver’s freeze-thaw weather cycles – the stone expands and contracts and the mortar breaks and falls apart,” Sanderson said. The city partnered with donors to restore the park in 1992, Sanderson said, but it’s since fallen back to disrepair.

The “Save Our Sundial” project, run by The Park People, has raised $680,000 from individuals and foundations. (One major donor, the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation Trust, is led by a descendant of Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, whose administration built much of the park.) The city also has set aside $870,000.

The sundial at Cranmer Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) clock; time; sundial; cranmer park; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
The sundial at Cranmer Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“So, what we’re doing is we’re reconstruction the whole thing – taking it down to the ground, building a foundation and building a drainage system,” she said.

They’ll also restore the sundial, which has been chipped over the years, and restore an inlaid terrazzo depiction of the mountainscape.

A Denver City Council committee will consider on April 18 whether to accept the donation. (Pretty sure they will.) The design of the repairs is finished, according to Sanderson, which means the city soon may start looking for contractors.

The city will have to put the contract before Denver City Council and hopes to start construction this year, with a likely six- to eight-month construction process, according to Mark Tabor, assistant director for planning.

That would hopefully put completion in 2018, he said – but first the city has to find a qualified contractor who will work within the budget, which could be difficult with the construction market and the difficulty of the work.

“Some things, you like to stay the same,” Sanderson added. “You’ll see people who proposed there, because it seemed like a place that would be there forever.”

The terrazzo panorama at Cranmer Park. (Courtesy The Park People)
A small human near the terrazzo panorama at Cranmer Park. (Courtesy The Park People)

 

 

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.