Unique Barnwell sundial stands the test of time

Published: May. 31, 2018 at 8:54 AM EDT
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

(News 12 This Morning)

BARNWELL, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- On a bright, sunny day outside the Barnwell County Courthouse there's no need to check your watch to know what time it is.

That's because there's a very unique sundial you won't find anywhere else. Some say the Barnwell sundial is the only free-standing vertical sundial left standing in the country.

It was put up in 1858 after it was given to the county by state senator Joseph D. Allen. The sundial keeps very accurate standard time, even though that wasn't established until 1884.

The courthouse that is located near it burnt down in 1865, but the sundial stood tall.

In 1918, still in it's original location, a concrete curbing was built around the sundial to protect it from traffic.

Over the years, it was restored and fixed up.

In 2014, Phill Huggins got the opportunity to restore it himself. It's safe to say he was a little nervous.

"Lord help me if I would've messed it up. It did have me on pins and needles. It certainly did," he says.

It was a little bit of an ordeal to get the more than century and a half old. Phil says, "It took six guys to take it down and six guys to put it up."

Phil worked hard for about a month. He put a new coat on it and hand painted everything back on it exactly how it was.

He says, "They didn't want a modern letter sitting on a vintage piece of artwork like that. So they wanted it to match up pretty well."

Phil says preserving a piece of history like this was very special. He painted a thank you note on the back of it. Etching his name in the history of this sundial. He says, "I just want to tell Barnwell County thank you for letting me do it."

More than 150 years later, the clock isn't ticking for the sun dial.

Phil says, "I hope to live long enough to do it again."

According to a plaque on the back, to read it you just find the shadow the gnomon casts onto the sundial. The hours are marked.

Depending on the time of the year it can be an hour behind. Pay attention to the month of the year, the sundial says certain parts of the year are marked as slow or fast. A plaque on the front states during certain seasons the variance can be up to 16 minutes.

But on June 22nd, it will be within two minutes of Eastern Standard time.