Tuesday, August 16

Centuries-Old Time Capsule Hidden in Foundation of Massachusetts State House Is Finally Opened

When construction workers were called to the Massachusetts State House in Boston this past January to assess and fix a water leak in the building’s foundation, the very last thing they probably expected to find was a time capsule in the foundation cornerstone.

But that’s exactly what they uncovered when they began working, and it wasn’t just any old time capsule planted a few years ago — it was a box, dating back to 1795, likely buried by Sam Adams and Paul Revere.

According to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, the box was probably placed in the building’s foundation during 1795, when Adams was serving as the Governor and had commissioned the State House to be renovated; Revere, being a renowned metalsmith and engraver during his time (in addition to his superior horse riding and lantern spotting skills), had contributed metalwork to the building’s structure, leading historians to believe that he had some part in planting the box as well.

Although the state’s historical board had a heated debate about whether or not to open the box, they finally agreed to extract the capsule from the foundation when it became clear that the water leak, which originally brought construction workers to the building, may have contaminated the contents of the box too.

It took seven long hours to extract the capsule from the building on January 6th, and another hour to remove the contents from the capsule, but the results were nothing less than astonishing.

Along with five newspapers, 23 different coins, and a variety of other trinkets from the Revolutionary War era, conservationists from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts Archives found a silver plaque, likely engraved by Revere himself, which mentioned the importance of the foundation’s cornerstone in such an important building.

Although some of the capsule’s contents were deteriorated — the building has suffered from water leaks for many years, and the capsule was actually unearthed once before during the 1800s (but never opened) — many historians have noted how remarkable it is that the building’s foundation has remained firmly intact and has protected the small box for well over 200 years.

According to local officials and curators, the possibility of re-burying the time capsule, along with notable items from the current year, is being seriously considered. With any luck, Boston’s State House foundation will protect the box for another 200 years, and provide future generations with a small glimpse of what life was like in 2015.

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