Monday, September 21, 2009

Telling Time

I'm rather fond of sundials. Not that I've ever really had any occasion to actually use one. I did have a small one that I bought as a souvenir at some Revolutionary War site, but I never took the time to figure out how to align it, how to take into account daylight savings, and all those little details. So it basically ended up as an awkward paperweight.

This sundial is mounted just outside the window of the Mayor's office at City Hall. It's probably not noticed by the scores of people who move in and out of City Hall on a given day. The sundial is just around the corner from the main entrances and most people are preoccupied with whatever business brings them there in the first place.

The inscription on this century-old sundial gives the exact latitude and longitude of the finial atop City Hall's tower and notes that the exact time at the 75th meridian (Albany, as the plaque indicates, is on the 73rd) is 4 minutes and 58.8 seconds slower than "Albany Local Time."

How precise!

I have to admit that my high school lessons on latitude and longitude are long since forgotten, but I rather like the idea of "Albany Local Time."

The plaque itself was placed in 1897, during John Boyd Thacher's tenure as Mayor of Albany. His name reminds very familiar to local residents since it was given to the State Park in the Helderberg Mountains just south of the City. Thacher is buried in a handsome vault in the Albany Rural Cemetery. The mausoleum features a red stained glass cross patterned after those on Christopher Columbus' ships; Thacher was the author of a two-volume book about the explorer.

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