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The Noyes Armillary Sphere Described In The Historic American Buildngs Survey #532
|| 2/9/2010 || 2:00 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

National Park Service Photograph of the Noyes Armillary Sphere in Meridian Hill Park in the District of Columbia taken in the 1965

National Park Service Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

According to page 39 of the Historic American Buildngs Survey #532 published in 1987 [PDF via the Library of Congress]:

The sculpture which contributed most sucessfully to the architectural design [of Meridian Hill Park] was the 6′ high armillary sphere. Money for the construction of the sphere was donated by Bertha Noyes, a well-known Washington artist and founder of the Washington Arts Club, in memory of her father and her sister. Paul Manship had constructed a model for an earlier proposal for an armillary sphere. For lack of funds, that sphere was not realized, later when the Noyes Armillary Sphere was constructed by Carl Paul Jennewein, he based his design on the earlier Manship model. The sphere was located in the exedra on axis with the cascade, south of the reflecting pool. This location was proposed by Ferruccio Vitale, and the foundation was designed by Horace W. Peaslee. Congress approved the location within Meridian Hill Park on June 10, 1932, subject to the final approval of its location within the park by the Commission. The sphere, which was of great interest conceptually as well as visually, was described by historian James Goode as follows:

In spite of its seemingly contemporary design, the armillary sphere is, in face, an ancient astrological instrument. The armillary sphere was frequently used in Europe in the seventeenth century to illustrate the Ptolemaic theory of a central earth; it used metal rings which illustrated the nine spheres of the universe. The usual device, a skeleton of the celestial globe with circles arranged into degrees for angle measurement, represents the great circles of the heavens. The latter includes the horizon, meridian, equator, tropics, and polar circle. The Noyes Armillary Sphere includes a series of bronze rings on which are also found the symbols of the zodiac and the hours, given in Roman numerals. A bronze arrow forms the axis, and, in the center, a small winged genie greets the sun. (James M. Goode, The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C., The Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974)

The armillary sphere suffered serious damage during the late 1960s and was removed for repair. Its whereabouts is presently unknown. The armillary sphere was worked in bronze, and placed on a green granite pedestal. Other significant park embellishments were wrought in iron. For example, at the north end of the park, a wrought-iron fence is decorated with small armillary spheres, reflecting the significance of the Noyes Armillary Sphere.


This article and photograph was obtained from the Library of Congress and is in the public domain. They are being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to advocate for a replacement armillary sphere in Meridian Hill Park.



Armillary Sphere Donated to ‘Federal City’ by Author; Ancient Astronomical Device Links Early Chinese to Modern Americans – The Washington Post, November 10, 1936
|| 2/7/2010 || 1:37 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

No one knows where the Noyes Armillary Sphere is today. Over the last few years I have personally called the Smithsonian & the National Park Service inquiring about the sculpture’s existence, but all have said it is lost. I genuinely find that difficult to believe because its not a small sculpture, but a rather large one. Some day in the future I would like to see this sculpture replaced and over time I hope to post more photographs and articles about this lost sculpture of Washington, DC.

According to the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System:

The sculpture originally consisted of two equal rings representing the Meridian and Equator, intersecting to form a sphere. Each intersecting ring was divided into areas representing the equinoxes and the Arctic and Antarctic regions. A wide bronze ring was adorned with the signs of the zodiac…. The base of sphere designed by Horace Peaslee, the architect of Meridian Park. The sphere was accepted by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in 1929, and was purchased with funds donated by Bertha Noyes, founder of the Washington Arts Club, in memory of her sister Edith. The sphere was vandalized during the 1960s and was removed from the park for repair. During this time, the sphere disappeared, with only the small winged figure of a child remaining.


National Park Service Photograph of the Noyes Armillary Sphere in Meridian Hill Park in the District of Columbia taken in the 1930's

National Park Service Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Armillary Sphere Donated to ‘Federal City’ by Author; Ancient Astronomical Device Links Early Chinese to Modern Americans.


The bronze sphere, 16 feet in circumference, bears the words: “Given to the Federal City, MCMXXXVI, for Edith Noyes.” It is the gift of Bertha Noyes, noted Washington artist, in memory of her sister.

Although the origin of the armillary sphere as an astronomical instrument is shrouded in mystery, its invention is usually credited to China, where it was first in use in approximately 200 B. C.

The Noyes memorial was designed by C. Paul Jennewein, New York sculptor, whose other works in Washington include the statue of a nude with fawn in Judiciary Square which was erected in memory of Joseph James Darlington, a District Supreme Court justice. Its placement in 1922 stirred a heated controversy.

Mounted on a granite pedestal three feet in height, the sphere has the signs of the Zodiac in relief on the outside of the great circle, within which are cleverly contrived the hours of the day marked in Roman numerals. In the center is a winged figure of a child greeting the sun.

At the base is a tablet, also of bronze, which corrects minor variations of the dial at different times of the year. Adjustments were made by a Columbia University astronomer in order that the instrument might be scientifically exact.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Washington Post historical newspaper archives. This article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to advocate for a replacement armillary sphere in Meridian Hill Park.


Related Armillary Sphere Entries:



Meridian Hill Park Hexagon Tessellation
|| 8/2/2008 || 1:59 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Hexagon Tessellation || ||

: saved at 15,000 X 10,000 :

This is the first time I’ve made a tessellation using hexagon as the basis for the pattern. Normally, I simply use a square because its the easiest to tessellate. The last map I made using Photoshop was Clayton Quilt #3, which was constructed using one square tile six times and did not exhibit radial symmetry like most of my other Qulit projection maps.

This time around I used center portion of the source tile that I used for Meridian Hill Park Quilt #4 and to switch things up a bit, I cut out a perfect hexagon from the the tile instead of using the tile’s square shape as basis for the tessellation. With one hexagon cut out, I merely duplicated it and moved it around to create the irregular tiling above. The difficulty was that I had to adjust the hexagon tiles so that they were not overlapping. It wasn’t that difficult per se, but it took awhile to get them all lined up perfectly. I am quite pleased with the result and figure that I will use this process again sometime in the not-so-distance future.

View the Google Map of Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC.

: detail :

View the rest of the map’s close-up details:

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The Use of the Analemma – As explained around 1780
|| 8/1/2008 || 4:54 pm || Comments Off on The Use of the Analemma – As explained around 1780 || ||

A couple months ago I posted the astrophotography of Anthony Ayiomamitis and went into some cursory detail in explaining what an Analemma was. Last night I was perusing the on-line collection of maps in the Library of CongressGeography & Mapping Division and came across Bowles’s new and accurate map of the world, or Terrestrial globe : laid down from the best observations and newest discoveries particularly those lately made in the south seas by Anson, Byron, Wallis, Bouganville, Cook, and other celebrated circumnavigators, illustrated with a variety of useful projections and representations of the heavenly bodies the most approved astronomical and geographical definitions tables, and problems with an easy and familiar explanation of the most curious and interesting phoenomena in the universal system. (yeah thats the official name of the map!)

It was published around 1780 in London for the proprietor Carington Bowles and it features quite a few ancillary maps, including a map of the solar system- both northern & southern hemisphere, astronomical latitude and longitude analemma (below), a chart of the world drawn according to Mercator’s projection, a map of the moon (a selenograph), and a diagram of seasons (which I absolutely love). I expect to reuse portions of this map for upcoming entries because its so laden with unique information. For example, there are drawings on how the planets looked like through the telescope and even the oldest drawings of sunspots that I’ve ever seen.

As for this entry, on the right side of the map are two spheres that were designed to teach the viewer how to understand the Analemma and use it to estimate the location of the Sun, planet, or any fixed star anytime in the past, present, or future. While I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the instructions, I have transcribed the text from the map below. There are a few errors and typos but I tried my best to keep the text as close to the original as possible.

By clicking on either of the images you can view a larger version and investigate the text yourself. As a decorative element, I used a portion of the tessellation I used to construct Meridian Hill Park Quilt #4 as the background.

The Use of the Analemma
The Analemma is a very useful (tho’ not commonly used) Projection of the Sphere on a plane. In this Projection the Eye is supposed to view the Sphere or Globe with all its Lines both real and imaginary from a Place so far distant that Mathematicians usually term this Distance in definite, and sometimes infinite.

In this Projection the Meridians and Circles of Declination as they are farther removed from the Centre of the Projection, appear nearer to each other and therefore more confused and on this Account Maps of the Earth and Heavens are generally delineated according to other Principles. Nevertheless there are several Properties belonging to this orthographic Projection, which are superior to all other Projections namely. 1st. In this Projection, the Circles of Latitude on the Earth’s Globe, from the Equator to the Pole, are all of them strait Lines, as are also all those Circles of equal Distance from London or any other Place on the Earth’s Globe all around London or any other Place. 2nd. The Distances of Places in the same Latitude are also measured by strait Lines in this Projection 3rd. The Meridians are Ellipses in this Projection and the Degrees of terrestrial Latitude are here measured on those Ellipses.

In like Manner for the Heavens 1st. The Parallels of the Sun’s and Stars Declination from the Equator, are in this Projection measured by strait Lines, which affords a very easy and elegant Construction of Properties of the celestial Sphere on a Plane. 2nd. The Parallels of Altitude for Sun or Stars at any Place on the Earth’s Globe are here also Strait Lines, Like the Parallels of Declination. 3rd. The Celestial Meridians, and the great Circles extending from the Zenith to the Nadir, in this Projection are Ellipses. 4th The Sun’s Declination North or South being but 23 1/2 degrees and the Degrees being in this Projection so near to an Equality from the Centre to the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, several of the most entertaining and useful Particulars relating to the Doctrine of the Sphere & Astronomy are more easily & elegantly solved by this Construction than any other.

From all which it follows that the Analemma or orthographical projection of the Sphere on a Plane is what everyone should understand who would not be at the expense of those expensive Instruments, Spheres, Globes etc., nor be at Pains and Attention enough to learn Mathematics and the necessary calculation.

On these Accounts we have given on the opposite side of this Map a Delineation which will be abundantly useful in the Application of the Analemma. And for a further Illustration of the Projection, Read what follows.

At the upper Part of this Map we have given a Table of the Sun’s Declination for the Beginning, Middle, and End of every Month throughout the Year, and which will be true till the Year 1808, by which Table and a single Proportion of Allowance for the Increase or Decrease of Declination, the true Declination for any Day may be easily found, also above we have given Geographical & Astronomical Definitions from which the Names of the several and respective Lines of the Earth and Heavens may be known.

Now supposing you would know the Hour of Sun Rising or Sun Setting or the Hours and Minutes of Time any Star, Planet, or the Moon is above the Horizon from the Rising to the Setting by the Analemma you first know the Latitude of that Place of the Earth where the Answer is required for. Secondly you must know the Declination of the Phenomenon whether it be Sun, Moon, or Star, and by these you may find the Time of Duration above the Horizon thus Count the Degrees of Latitude from the Equator of the Analemma downwards towards its Pole and a Strait piece of Paper of Line laid from thence to the Centre will cut the Line of Declination and the elliptical Meridians Equal to the Length of the Half Day more than Six Hours when the Place and Declination are both alike that is both North or both South but less than Six Hours, when the Place of Declination are both unlike that is one North and the Other South and this assensional Difference being either added to or subtracted from Six Hours gives the Length of the Half Day, and consequently the Time of Rising or Setting of the Sun.

The like is also to be understood of the Rising and setting of the Moon, Planets, or Fixed Stars, with this Difference, that in these you mist know if the Moon, Planet, or Stars rise sooner or Later than the Sun, which you may known whither such Star as you enquire about doth by the above Hemispheres, but for the Moon and Planets you may have Recourse to an Ephemeris Another very curious and useful Problem in the Doctrine of the Sphere is solveable after the most easy and elegant Manner by the Analemma relative to the Crepusculum or Twilight its Beginning & Ending in any Place of the Earth & at any Time of the Year it is as follows Viz.Count as before mentioned from the Equator of the Analemma to the Latitude & draw a real or imaginary Line thro’ the Centre to the opposite Side of the Analemma, then in the Circumference of y3 Analemma count 18 Degrees on each side downward & where the Parallel of the Sun or Stars Declination cuts this Strait Line the Number of elliptic Meridians from the Centre shews the Ascensional Difference.

N.B. The Equator of the Analemma is the Line 180 to 180 thro’ the Centre.

In this Analemma the Place in the Ecliptic or Distance from the next Equinoctial Point being known (which the adjacent Table will shew) the Declination and Right Ascension of the Sun are known by Inspection and for the Moon or Planets which have Latitude if such Latitude be reckoned from the Ecliptic towards the Ecliptic’s Pole the Declination & Right Ascension answering to such Latitude will be known by Inspection in the Analemma the Use of which will appear to such as know a little of the Sphere.

As the Fixed Stars are carried forward according to the Order of the Signs 50 Seconds per Year this Analemma will readily shew the Place of any Fixed Star for any Time past present or to come if its present Place be known & Contra.




Related Antique Entries:

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Meridian Hill Park Quilt #4
|| 7/26/2008 || 4:08 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Quilt #4 || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :

I’ve been doing some research on an old sculpture that used to be in Meridian Hill Park that will be featured in an upcoming posting. In preparation, I decided to make a quilt projection map of the park using the newest available imagery. Unlike the previous three, which were some of the first to use my recursive tessellation technique, the newer imagery captures less of the area surrounding the park and more detail of the park itself. This is simply due to the fact that the newer imagery has a high spatial resolution than the older imagery, which correlates to more detail, but less geographic coverage. Since the aerial photography was taken in the early spring, the fountains were still in their winter slumber and I imagine that if it were taken in the summer the coloration would be vastly different.

When constructing this map, I used my new technique hypothesized in May and first rendered a hexagon tile and then took a portion of that tessellation and used it here. The result, which I am seeing for the first time, is that you can see the hexagon shape around the center of this square quilt projection map quite easily. From my understanding, depending on the location of the recursive sampling within the first map, I’ll be able to see it’s respective geometry embedded in the second map. However, I think it’s nearly impossible to fully gage the geometry of the original map after two recursions because each subsequent sampling makes it more difficult to see the geometry present in the previous map.

View the Google Map of Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC.

: detail :

View the rest of the map’s close-up details:

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Meridian Hill Park Mask
|| 12/2/2006 || 11:47 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Mask || ||

: rendered at 15,000 X 10,000 :

This map was commissioned by a friend of mine and went through four drafts before perfection.

View the Google Map of the Meridian Hill Park in Ward 1 of Washington, DC.

View Mask Details:

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A Degraded Mask of Meridian Hill Park
|| 10/2/2006 || 11:08 pm || Comments Off on A Degraded Mask of Meridian Hill Park || ||

I took a draft of an African mask design for a client and degraded it to make it look slightly older. It’s Cardozo High School to Meridian Hill Park in Northwest Washington, DC and somewhere in that map is the client’s house.

The map was completed on December 2nd, 2006. View the drafts:

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Meridian Hill Park Quilt – 1st Derivative #2
|| 1/16/2006 || 2:15 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Quilt – 1st Derivative #2 || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :

This map is the final iteration of the series. It shows the most fractalized version of the geography yet. However, I could still make another version. Regardless, these are quite stunning!

: detail :

View the rest of the details:

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Meridian Hill Park Quilt – 1st Derivative
|| 1/15/2006 || 1:50 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Quilt – 1st Derivative || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :

Using a portion of Meridian Hill Park Quilt, I created this derivative map that appears to look like a fractal.

View Details:

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Meridian Hill Park Quilt
|| 1/14/2006 || 8:20 pm || Comments Off on Meridian Hill Park Quilt || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :

Meridian Hill Park is one of my favorite parks in Washington, DC.

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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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