August 2020 Update on the Cranmer Park Sundial Plaza Restoration Project
by Denise Sanderson
Installation of a new piece of public art will begin in mid-August in Cranmer Park. This art will complete the final phase of the Sundial Plaza restoration project. All City projects with budgets exceeding $1 million must set aside 1% for the inclusion of public art. Since the budget for this project was quite small, and the park so large, a private foundation provided additional funding so the artwork would be appropriate for Cranmer.
The Cranmer Park selection committee chose a local artist, Patrick Marold. The selection panel also considered location of the art – it could not interfere with the panoramic view of the mountains to the west, it could not be located in/near the playing fields, and it should not interfere with the view of the park from the homes on the eastern boundary. Marold’s sculpture will be located near the pathway that connects Second Avenue to Belo Horizonte Drive.
Over the past 30 years, Denver’s Public Art Program has installed more than 300 works of art that join 100 additional historic and donated pieces located throughout the city. These artworks are selected through a public process that engages, residents, civic leaders, artists, and arts professionals. Each public art project is specific to its location and each selection panel is unique. For more information on Denver’s Public Art Collection, visit and explore Denver Public Art.
The land for Cranmer Park was acquired in 1908, with the first recorded reference to any site development occurring in 1923, when construction began on the terrazzo terrace. The park was originally named Mountain View Park for excellent view of the Front Range from the terrace plaza platform. Mountain profiles and notable Front Range landmarks were etched in the terrazzo creating a mosaic panorama of Colorado’s mountain range, which mimic the breathtaking view. The terrazzo construction as well as the park flower beds were funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The sundial was installed in 1941, and was based on an ancient Chinese sundial, out of quartzite stone quarried in Lyons. It was donated by longtime Manager of Denver Parks George E. Cranmer, for whom the park is now named. The original sundial was destroyed by vandals who exploded dynamite under it in September 1965. The destructive incident prompted a community-wide effort to reconstruct a replica of the sundial, led by city officials, members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, residents, and business leaders and installed in 1966.
Over the years, the Sundial Terrace and its terrazzo panorama has deteriorated due to weather, drainage issues and a poor foundation. A campaign to raise awareness and funding for a more thorough restoration of the entire plaza began in 2010.
Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) launched an innovative public-private partnership with the Save Our Sundial Project and The Park People to spearhead the restoration of the Sundial Terrace at Cranmer Park. The restoration project encompassed reconstructing the terrazzo panorama, repairing the sundial, and rebuilding the foundation of the terrace. Renovation of this important site is necessary to restore the architectural significance and aesthetic beauty of the plaza. Costs for this project were projected to be $1.8 million.
In April of 2017, the Save Our Sundial Project announced they had reached their goal and matched funding from the City with the help 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. The Save Our Sundial Project is still accepting gifts to the Save Our Sundial Fund. Gifts already received in excess of what’s needed for the reconstruction as well as additional donations will be placed in an endowment account to fund ongoing preservation of the sundial, mosaic mountain panorama, and plaza. To get involved today by making a tax-deductible gift online, please visit: Save Our Sundial
In addition to the main restoration project at the Sundial Terrace, new sidewalks will be installed along First Avenue, from Cherry Street to Bellaire St, and from First Street along Belo Horizonte up to the Sundial Terrace. The sidewalk will be ADA compliant, and will feature a park bench with an adjacent area for wheelchair bound guests to sit with their friends. Included in this plan is an area along First Avenue for an ADA compliant porta-potty to be seasonally available for park visitors. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2018 and we are hopeful this will improve a pedestrian’s safe access to the park from the neighborhood.
It was a picture perfect Colorado day for the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of the Sundial Terrace reconstruction. Also see the Facebook page for the Save Our Sundial Project for more photos on the ribbon cutting ceremony and the progress on the reconstruction over the past few months (and years!). See the video of the ribbon cutting ceremony here
The weather has been cooperative and work has been proceeding at a good pace. Denise Sanderson, Co-Chair of the Save Our Sundial project is keeping tabs on the project and shares the following update: Stone Masons Working at the Sundial Terrace.
Groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held on December 18, 2017 under beautiful Colorado blue skies with a crowd of dignitaries and neighbors to help celebrate this long awaited event. Expected competition of the project is September or October of 2018. The Save Our Sundial Committee of The Park People and DPR thank you for your understanding and continued support for this project.