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Crews dismantling Lee pedestal may have found 1887 time capsule

The discovery of a copper box was made just after 7 a.m. by crew members working to disassemble...
The discovery of a copper box was made just after 7 a.m. by crew members working to disassemble the pedestal.(NBC12)
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 10:51 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2021 at 9:26 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Crews may have located the 1887 time capsule inside the Robert E. Lee monument Friday.

A copper box was discovered just after 7 a.m. by crew members working to disassemble the pedestal.

Crews have been dismantling the pedestal since last week, but according to a governor’s office release, workers noticed something that looked different Friday morning.

“So they chiseled down with a hammer and found the top of what appears to be the time capsule–located inside a large block, under one inch of cement,” the release said.

Mike Spence, a construction superintendent with Team Henry Enterprises, was excited to see the discovery.

“When he said he had found it, Hossana,” he said. “This was the best day ever.”

In September, crews suspended their search for the time capsule after nearly 10 hours of work.

Several scans of the pedestal previously showed a void in the cornerstone for the capsule.

Time capsule removal
Time capsule removal(NBC12)

But on Friday, the item was not found in the pedestal base but about 20 feet in the air - in the tower.

“It was located approximately 8 feet from the outside of the granite and about one foot from the edge of the core. It appears to be largely undamaged,” said the governor’s release.

The discovery of the copper box was also exciting for Dale Brumfield, a Richmond historian who has done extensive research on the capsule.

“It’s pretty stunning that it was found,” Brumfield said. “What is equally stunning is that it is not at all where we thought it was.”

Historians believed the time capsule was buried in the pedestal’s northeast cornerstone per masonic tradition.

However, this was not the case.

“This leads me to believe either the newspapers were lying in 1887 or they moved it during construction for some reason,” Brumfield said.

Brumfield said this brings up questions about the reasoning behind the location of the possible time capsule.

“It wasn’t that it wasn’t meant to be found; it wasn’t meant to be found easily,” Brumfield said. “They really went out of their way to bury it in the monument in a way only destroying the monument is the only way it would be found.”

In the afternoon, crews lowered the block containing the copper box to the ground, where experts examined it.

Historians believe a time capsule was placed in the monument on Oct. 27, 1887. Records from the Library of Virginia suggest 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses put about 60 objects to the capsule.

“A lot of Confederate stuff, bullets, Confederate money, bonds, things like that,” Brumfield said in regards to the possible items in the capsule.

Brumfield also believes there’s a rare photo of President Abraham Lincoln lying inside his coffin, which would be a rare and exciting find for historians around the globe.

“Whatever it is, I’m hoping it’s still salvageable,” he said.

The block containing the copper box was transported to the Department of Historic Resources.

Inside their lab, the preservation work will start, and X-rays will be taken to verify what’s inside the box before it’s opened.

Grant Neely, a member of the Governor’s office, said the box would not be opened at any time before Monday.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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