Ottawa

Was Major's Hill Park aligned with solstice sun in mind?

An undocumented and apparently deliberate celestial alignment of Major's Hill Park should be revealed today with the setting sun on Winter Solstice, says a local, amateur historian.

4:23 p.m. sunset should draw path through Major's Hill Park and onto Colonel By statue, historian says

Andrew King waits for the setting sun in Major's Hill Park while a statue of Colonel By stands in the background on Dec. 21, 2017. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Local amateur historian Andrew King is waiting to see if his theory about a deliberate solstice design in Major's Hill Park is confirmed today.

King believes the park north of the Chateau Laurier was deliberately laid out along celestial lines, with an elliptical concrete pad behind Château Laurier the perfect spot to catch the summer solstice sunset and the winter solstice sunset.

On summer solstice, June 21, the rays of the setting sun cast a line from Champlain's statue in Nepean Point, along a stone and concrete path and to the concrete pad behind Château Laurier.

On today's date, winter solstice, King believes the setting sun should cast a light along York street, through Major's Hill Park, across the same elliptical pad and ultimately onto a statue of Colonel By.

From a position at the same elliptical concrete pad, viewers should see the setting sun sink down right down at Colonel By's statue, King said.

Hidden mystery in the city

"Someone has carefully managed to design it around certain celestial events in summer and winter," he said.

King, who has written about the theory on his blog, used a computer program to calculate the path of sun's rays on a known calendar date. With a known vantage point, the Sun Surveyor program will show where the sun will set, anywhere in the world.

A statue of Colonel By, in lower left corner, stands west of an 'abstracted sundial' in Major's Hill Park. Amateur historian Andrew King believes the designer of the park meant for the setting sun on the winter solstice to shine through the statue to those viewing along the path to the sundial. (Google Maps)

He then confirmed this summer theory this June and is going back to the park today at 4:23 p.m. to see if his winter theory holds up.

King has been exploring the apparently deliberate but undocumented, alignments for several years.

"I think Ottawa has some hidden little mysteries that we don't really know about," said King, "and I think this is one of them, but it's not advertised and there's no plaque."

"It's just kind of a little, hidden Da Vinci Code kind of thing, in Ottawa," said King, referring to the best-selling 2003 novel by Dan Brown which follows a cryptologist's investigation into Christ's early life.

"I've been trying to get to the bottom of who built it," said King of the unmarked alignments in Major's Hill Park.

An 'abstracted sundial'

An inquiry to the National Capital Commission, which controls the land around the Colonel By statue and Major's Hill Park, about the origins and the possibility of plans to commemorate the design, went unanswered for two months, he said.

Sun Surveyor software shows where the sun's rays will fall in Major's Hill Park on both summer and winter solstice. (supplied)

In April, staff wrote him to say that the only reference to the park's design that could be found in archived material related to the elliptical pad, which read:

"White granite markers in the Oval plaza contain sandblasted text and porcelain enamel illustrations relate the history of the park itself and act as points of an abstracted sundial."

"I was hoping to find some further details about the sundial, but unfortunately my search was unsuccessful," wrote the NCC staffer to King, as she explained that a 2013 mandate change had caused most material related to commemorations, public art and events to be sent to the Department of Canadian Heritage.

"This could be 100 per cent coincidence," admitted King, "but when you have many things being coincidental, well, it's no longer coincidence."