Ingleside Terraces Sundial Landmark Bid Clears Committee

A women’s sewing party at the Ingleside Terraces Sundial circa 1915. Image courtesy of the Western Neighborhoods Project

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The Ingleside Terraces Sundial and Sundial Park is all but a city landmark.

On Monday, Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston, who sit on the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee, moved forward the landmark designation. It will now head for a full vote at the board next Tuesday. Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who chairs the committee and represents District 7 where the proposed landmark resides, recused herself from the item as she lives less than 500 feet away from the sundial and park.

Former District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee initiated the landmark designation process in December 2020. The Historic Preservation Commission approved a recommendation to landmark the sundial and park in April.

In a brief presentation, Francis McMillen told the committee that the sundial and park have a significant association with the development of residence parks in the city. McMillen noted that historian Richard Brandi said the neighborhoods were called residence parks to “emphasize the park-like setting.”

“For the Ingleside Terraces Sundial and Sundial Park are also significant as distinctive examples of the ornamental landscape features common to residence park developments,” McMillen said.

It was not uncommon for residence parks to feature fountains, benches or gates, McMillen added.

Planning Department documents cited author and former Ingleside Light columnist Woody LaBounty’s book “Ingleside Terraces: San Francisco Racetrack to Residence Park” as well as some of LaBounty’s other research on the greater Ingleside for historical context.

In 1910, architect Joseph Leonard acquired the one-time racetrack to develop housing under the Urban Realty Improvement Company. McMillen noted that at the time there were deed restrictions, including racial restrictions on who could own property in residence parks.

The sundial and park were completed in 1913 with a dedication ceremony that took place on Oct. 13. The sundial’s gnomon measures 28-feet long and 17-feet high with a concrete base diameter of 34 feet.

Planning documents state that Leonard and the realty company used the sundial and park to advertise and attract homebuyers away from other developing residence parks, even misleading potential homebuyers that it was the largest sundial in the world at the time.

Since the construction of the sundial and park, McMillen said both have been symbols of the community’s identity. The Ingleside Terraces Homes Association, for example, uses the image of the sundial in its quarterly Sundial Newsletter. For years, the sundial has been an unsanctioned playground for children.

Mark Scardina, longtime president of the association, wrote a letter to the board in support of designating the sundial and park as a city landmark.

Scardina said they have been taking care of the working sundial and park, including maintaining the landscaping by hiring a professional and recently renovated the sundial to match the historical color scheme.