Historic Preservation Commission Recommends Landmark Status for Ingleside Terraces Sundial

The Ingleside Terraces Sundial and Sundial Park circa 1913. Image courtesy of the Western Neighborhoods Project

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The large sundial that has sat in San Francisco’s Ingleside Terraces neighborhood for over 100 years is on track to become the city’s latest landmark.

The Historic Preservation Commission Thursday approved a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to landmark the Ingleside Terraces Sundial and Sundial Park, located at Entrada Court. Former District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee initiated the landmark designation process late last year.

Francis McMillen, a staff member with the Planning Department, said the sundial and park has long been a symbol of the neighborhood’s identity.

“The sundial, which is also a functioning timepiece serves as the logo for the Ingleside Terraces Homes Association, and has been the site of community gathering celebrations and acted as an unsanctioned playground structure for generations of the neighborhood’s children,” McMillen said.

A Planning Department staff report cites former Ingleside Light columnist and historian Woody LaBounty, who wrote the book “Ingleside Terraces: San Francisco Racetrack to Residence Park.”

The sundial and park were designed by architect Joseph Leonard, who bought the one-time racetrack. Leonard developed the land into a residence park where homes in the neighborhood would be in a park-like setting that featured ornamental features in the City Beautiful style.

Many other residence parks were also being developed in the early 20th century, including Forest Hill and St. Francis Woods. The staff report notes that LaBounty’s book says the sundial may have been an effort by Leonard to attract potential homebuyers over other developing residence parks.

The sundial measures 28-feet long and 17-feet high with a concrete base diameter of 34-feet and features Roman numerals. Winding concrete pathways compose the landscape and heart-shaped planting beds that represent cardinal points. 

Four concrete columns located between the pathways represent different classical orders — Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Tusca. Three benches are adjacent to each column. Each column has an urn that sits atop each column that represent the four stages of man, the four seasons of the year and the four periods of the day, according to the staff report.

Commissioner Jonathan Pearlman said the decision to approve the recommendation was a “no brainer” and compared Leonard to the showman P.T. Barnium for the way Leonard promoted Ingleside Terraces.

“It just reminded me of part of time in America that you know is long, long, long gone,” Pearlman said.

Commissioner Richard S.E. Johns, who said he played on the sundial structure as a kid, said he always wondered why a sundial was built in a neighborhood when there barely is any sunshine to speak of.

“I think this is really more fun than the Doggie Diner head,” Johns said. “So I certainly support this landmarking.”

With commission approval, the item will go back to the Board of Supervisors for committee hearings and then on to the full board for approval, said Candace Soohoo, deputy communications manager for the Planning Department. Once passed, the item will need to be signed by the mayor before officially becoming a city landmark.