Monday, October 15, 2018

Save Our Sundial

What is Save Our Sundial?

Save Our Sundial is The Park People's current park improvement project. We have partnered with neighborhood leaders and with Denver's Department of Parks and Recreation to renovate and reconstruct Cranmer Park's Sundial and Plaza, one of Denver's great park landmarks. The Park People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Read more about us.

Our Timeless Treasure: more about the sundial, the plaza, & the park

Located in Denver's Hilltop neighborhood, Cranmer Park is used by an estimated 70,000 Denver and metro area residents each year.  It’s a popular venue for organized sports, picnics, casual strolls, and walks with the dog.

The park is commonly known as “Sundial Park” for its beloved, 6-foot sundial. The giant sundial sits atop a sweeping flagstone terrace (aka "the plaza"), which was built in the 1930s through the Works Progress Administration (employing unskilled, unemployed people to carry out public works projects as part of the American New Deal). The plaza's western edge is bordered by a beautiful (but cracking) mosaic panorama depicting the Front Range, including five 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation). This colorful mosaic serves as a visual gateway to the mountains, and tour buses make the sundial and mosaic panorama a regular stop to introduce visitors to a unique Denver landmark and to the Rocky Mountains.

The sundial and plaza are the backdrop of many people’s cherished memories: viewing sunsets and fireworks, marriage proposals, weddings, and children ‘summiting’ the sundial.

A little history: Once the highest point in Denver, the park was originally named Mountain View Park for its expansive view of the Rocky Mountains to the west. The park was renamed after George Cranmer, a former Manager of Denver’s Department of Parks and Improvements in Mayor Ben Stapleton’s administration. George Cranmer and Mayor Stapleton are recognized as the visionaries behind much of Denver’s extensive parks system, most notably Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Winter Park. George Cranmer personally donated the original 6-foot sundial, carved from quartzite stone quarried in Lyons, CO and based on an ancient Chinese sundial design. Vandals dynamited the sundial in 1965, but the community rallied to raise funds for its replacement.

I would love to live in Denver [when I grow up] and have my kids play in the park and take photos of them at the plaza like I had.

- Alison Koff, at age 18

We want to be sure that what we've enjoyed in our generation and the generations before us – that we are good stewards to the generations that follow us.

- Brewster Boyd, age 70

The Sundial is gorgeous, unique and quintessentially Denver. It’s the home of so many wonderful memories for my family.

- Lizzi Sullivan Beyer

The Challenge

Unfortunately, the plaza was originally built on rubble with no firm foundation and without adequate drainage to remove water from the surface. Paired with our freeze-thaw weather cycles, this has caused the plaza to buckle and sag, seriously damaging the flagstone, mortar, and mosaic panorama. In addition, vandals have chipped the face of the sundial and removed stones from the plaza. The sundial plaza is in such disrepair that it is on Colorado Preservation, Inc.'s 2013 list of Most Endangered Places.

Answering the Call

The Park People has worked with community leaders to raise the funds necessary to renovate and reconstruct the sundial, the terrazzo panorama, and the sundial plaza. In partnership with the City of Denver, we are thrilled to have raised the full $2 million needed to complete the reconstruction. Please read below about the funds we're raising for the Sundial Preservation Endowment Fund.

Warm thanks to everyone who has contributed to Saving Our Sundial! We are pleased to have the support of more than 700 households and dozens of foundations and businesses who value this special site and appreciate the vital role that Denver’s parks, shared spaces, and special places play in all our lives. Additionally, through the Departments of Parks & Recreation and Arts & Venues, the City has contributed more than half of the anticipated construction costs. Our fall Park Bench newsletter includes a list of SOS contributors as of August 31, 2017.

The Reconstruction

The renovation and reconstruction project will rebuild the plaza from the ground up, correcting structural deficiencies to create a lasting foundation for the plaza to preserve this community treasure for generations to come.

We will lay a solid foundation, incorporate a drainage system and a slight grade, repair the face of the sundial, and recreate the mosaic panorama. The goal is to rebuild the plaza that residents know and love, reusing materials as much as possible.

Join the Movement, Support an Enduring Legacy

The Sundial needs YOU! We are still accepting gifts to the Save Our Sundial Fund. Additional gifts will be placed in a preservation endowment fund to support ongoing preservation of the sundial, mosaic mountain panorama, and plaza.

We appreciate gifts of all sizes and accept gifts of stock. Donate online, or complete the Stock Gifting Form. Donations are tax deductible.

Giving Levels:
    Front Range – gifts over $20,000*
    Mount Evans – gifts over $10,000*
    Longs Peak – gifts over $5,000*
    Pikes Peak – gifts over $1,000
    Grays Peak – gifts over $500
    Torreys Peak – gifts over $100

*Contributions of $5,000 and greater will receive permanent recognition onsite at the sundial plaza.

Construction Updates

We've broken ground!

On December 18th, The Park People, Denver Parks and Recreation, and community members and project supporters joined Krische Construction in breaking ground on the plaza! Krische Construction will continue working throughout 2018 (weather permitting) with anticipated completion by October 2018. Stay tuned for updates! We'll post updates on this webpage and on our Save Our Sundial Facebook page.

January 22, 2018

Deconstruction underway!! Materials that could be salvaged have been safely removed and stored. The sundial has been removed for refacing and cleaning. Demolition of the plaza will continue for the next few weeks. Goodbye, sweet original plaza! We appreciated your many years and look forward to your new, more stable form to come in the months ahead!

February 15, 2018

Forms have been set for the concrete base of the new plaza!
Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman, Save Our Sundial Committee Co-Chair Denise Sanderson, The Park People Executive Director Kim Yuan-Farrell, and Denver Parks and Recreation Executive Director Happy Haynes lift the first pieces of flagstone during groundbreaking ceremony December 2017. Photo credit: Genny Kline.
January 8, 2018  Sundial Lift-off!
Major demo work begins! Photo credit: Don Turner.

April 6, 2018

May 31, 2018 The first of the flagstone pavers being laid at Cranmer Park...! These puppies are set in polymeric sand, which will be able to flex slightly with Colorado's freeze-thaw weather - an improvement over the mortar joints of the original terrace.

June 22, 2018 Flagstone nearing completion!


July 24 - Wow wow wow! How beautiful is the new terrazzo mountain panorama?! - and the replicate is installed on a pivot slab that will adapt to our freeze-thaw cycles too :)

January 4, 2018
January 8, 2018
February 15, 2018 Setting forms for the concrete base that will support the new plaza into the future!

April 12, 2018

June 14, 2018 First steps for the new terrazzo mosaic panorama of the Rocky Mountains: layout!

June 22, 2018 The terrazzo mosaic panorama is on its way!

First steps of demolition. Photo credit: Don Turner.
January 8, 2018  Sundial gnomon out! About 300 pounds of stainless steel!
February 15, 2018
March 4, 2018 Pouring the foundation walls.

April 12, 2018 The new subsurface drainage system will help remove water from the terrace, preventing damage from Colroado's freeze-thaw cycles.

June 14, 2018


Individual donors are the single most important contributors to The Park People. They are at the root of each tree we plant and every project we undertake. The more you can give, the more The Park People can do. Plus, your contributions are tax deductible. 

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