Noon Marks at the American Civil War Memorial
The noon mark tells us when it is noon. For many centuries the primary means of telling time was the sundial and the noon mark was the most common time observed. Each day men and woman looked to the noon mark to know when to pause for dinner and rest. Many old castles, palaces, churches, homes and gardens still have noon marks. Noon marks lie along the meridian, the north south line running between the North and South Pole, also known as longitude. The longitude of the Memorial is 76.877 degrees west, the angular distance west of Greenwich, England.
The primary elements of the American Civil War Memorial are aligned in an axis along the meridian. The Star Stone lies at the north end of the axis, at the south end is the flag pole. In between, along the same axis, are the portal and the North South Cenotaph. When the shadow cast by a vertical object, such as the Memorial flag pole, is precisely over the meridian it is local apparent noon. Three astronomically significant noon marks have been permanently marked along the meridian on the lawn of the Memorial. The Summer Solstice noon mark is indicated by a red circle incised on a rectangular piece of Pennsylvania blue stone located between the flag pole and the North South Cenotaph. The noon mark stone for the Spring Equinox (blue circle) and the Fall Equinox (gold circle) is located between the portal and the North South Cenotaph. The Winter Solstice noon mark (unmarked) falls in the middle of the south face of the Star Stone.
Yearly Equinox and Solstice Dates:
March 20, June 21, September 22 and December 21
Summer Solstice noon mark stone with shadow cast by flag pole on the meridian.
Spring and Fall Equinox noon mark stone.
Installation of Spring and Fall Equinox noon mark stone (June 2009).
Approximate location of Winter Solstice noon mark.
"Form cannot be form of nothing. If, then, in finding or creating beauty, we ignore the materials of things and attend only to their form, we miss an ever-present opportunity to heighten our effects. For whatever delight the form may bring, the material might have given delight already....There is no effect of form which an effect of material could not enhance, and this effect of material, underlying that of form, raises the latter to a higher power and gives the beauty of the object a certain poignancy, thoroughness, and infinity which it otherwise would have lacked. The Parthenon not in marble, the king's crown not of gold, and the stars not of fire, would be feeble and prosaic things... The beauty of material is thus the groundwork of all higher beauty..." George Santayana
The American Civil War Memorial is made of marble, limestone and gold. The stones of the Portal, Stele, North South Cenotaph and Star Stone come from the thirty-six states of 1865.
Marble, a variety of calcite, is composed of carbonate of lime. It begins its life as limestone but is transformed through heat and pressure into the substance we call marble. It is classified as a metamorphic stone. Marble has always been prized by artists and architects for its brilliance, translucence and excellent sculptural qualities. Throughout history marble has been the first choice for stone monument design. Although statuary marble is found in many locations, the world standard is Italian Carrara quarried north of Pisa. This is the stone of Michelangelo's Pieta and David. The ancient Greeks developed the tradition of using marble for statuary and architecture. One of their best marbles came from the island of Paros. The Venus de Medici is Parian marble while the Parthenon is constructed of the marble of Pentelicus.
Marble producers in the United States are found in only a few states including Colorado, Georgia and Vermont. One of the finest American marbles is found in Danby, Vermont. The Star Stone and Stele are Danby white marble from Vermont Quarries Corporation. Some of America's best known buildings and projects, including the Jefferson Memorial, the US Supreme Court, the US Senate Office Building, the Pierpont Morgan Library and Arlington Cemetery are made of Danby white.
Limestone is made of calcium carbonate and is found throughout the world. This stone is typically of organic origin, composed of the remains of plants and animals deposited in river and sea beds. Because the stone is created from sediment deposits it is classified as a sedimentary stone. Within limestone one can find the fossils and shells that attest to its manner of formation. The finest architectural and statuary limestone in the United States is found in Indiana near Bedford. It has been used to build many of our important buildings including the Princeton University Chapel. Other states, including Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, produce a lower grade limestone more suitable for road building and cement.
The Cenotaphs, Portal and Star Stone base of the American Civil War Memorial are made of Indiana silver buff limestone from Independent Limestone Company. Limestone from the same quarry was used in the following projects: the Pentagon Phoenix Project (the renovation of the Pentagon after 9/11/01); the Empire State Building and the Washington Cathedral.
The Portal wall is constructed of a mix of Canadian limestone and Seneca County (NY) limestone.
The North South Cenotaph is composed of a variety of stones sent from the thirty-six states of 1865 (see North South Cenotaph section of this website).
Gold was most likely the first metal to be used for artistic purposes in prehistoric times. It is the most beautifully colored metal and surpasses all other metals in malleability. Gold neither tarnishes nor corrodes and, among the metals, is exceeded in weight only by platinum. These unusual properties make it a premier artistic material.
The stars on the Star Stone and the Stele top are gilt with 23k Italian gold leaf. The gold leaf is applied to the white Danby marble using an adhesive (gold size). As the name implies, gold leaf is a leaf of gold created by beating the gold to an extreme thinness (0.00003 inches).
Noon Mark & Artistic Materials