If you ever gets a chance to gloss over the city maps handed out in hotels and at tourism agencies in the downtown area, you'll see that that the map is incomplete, even though it clearly states it's a "complete" map. The cartographers ended the map at Sloat Avenue and cuts off the bottom half of the City, as if to allude that there is nothing interesting or important to visit in the southern portion of San Francisco.
Yes, the area is primarily residential, but as we locals know, that assumption is erroneous, and this week's Tourism for Locals highlights a local landmark installed a century ago. The centerpiece of a real estate development ,and adorned by a small park, it's time to check out the massive Urbano Sundial resting in the Ingleside neighborhood.
Located at the the Urbano Street circle, the incongruous sight might seem out of place and you may wonder why it's there — at the turn of the previous century it was erected as a marketing gimmick. According to a 1914 advertisement pamphlet
, it was installed by the Urban Realty Improvement Company (URICO) to lure buyers the Ingleside Terraces development, and it sat at as the center attraction to this housing community. At the time, the 148-acre residence park offered a lawn tennis court, a clubhouse for social gatherings and about 750 houses priced from $6,000 to $20,000.
Before the housing development, the land was the site of the Ingleside Race Track
; the race track was dedicated in 1895, but when the 1906 earthquake struck,it became a refugee camp for survivors and the track never saw another race.
The sundial was inaugurated the evening of Oct. 10, 1913,
at a decadent event with 1,500 people in attendance. Children dressed as nymphs unveiled the sundial and four surrounding columns, a midnight supper was served, and couples danced until dawn. The evening also commemorated the completion of two other engineering marvels: the Twin Peaks Tunnel
on a local scale and the Panama Canal for the international community.
Although the gnomon
used to have a reflecting pool
, that has since been filled in, but the 34-foot-wide clock face with large Roman numerals still provides the time (except on foggy days and during daylight savings). At the quarter marks, sit four columns depicting the four Greco-Roman architectural styles
: Doric, Corinthian, Ionic and Tuscan; they embody San Francisco’s neo-classical obsession that was championed during the Beaux-Arts era by architect Albert Pissis. (Another notable example of this French-inspired aesthetic is the building surrounding Civic Center and the desolate Hibernia Bank Building.)
This sight is a popular, underrated neighborhood attraction for community events. Later this month, the Ingleside Terraces Home Association will be holding their annual sundial park picnic at this century-old landmark on Sept. 21 as well as it acts as the site of Christmas caroling in December.
But you don't have to wait for community events to visit this local sight. We advise bringing a picnic and enjoying the suburban cul-de-sac views. You may even see a few children on bikes, racing around the sundial, oblivious to the fact they are recreating races held in the very same spot a century prior. We'd say just lose track of time and have a leisurely picnic, but that can be difficult considering you are next to a giant timepiece.