It’s not two centuries old, like the Paul Revere time capsule recently stumbled upon in Boston, but the unearthing of a 100-year-old box in the wall of the Lincoln Hall Gateway last month is still thrilling to Melvyn Skvarla.
A Facilities & Services planner and the university’s campus historic preservation officer, Skvarla said he is always excited to see what is inside a time capsule -- especially a time capsule no one knew existed until early January.
“We knew there were time capsules under the Alma Mater, under a stainless steel monolith near Engineering Hall, and in the cornerstone of the original Lincoln Hall,” Skvarla said, “but this was unexpected.”
Contract workers from the Otto Baum Company found the artifact inside a cavity of the Gateway’s walls while rebuilding the crumbling structure. The Gateway, located along Wright Street to the south and west of Lincoln Hall, was a gift from the Class of 1913 and was completed in July of that year.
“Gateways were very popular in the 1870s through the 1920s, especially around quadrangles,” Skvarla said.
When F&S project manager Grant Colella opened the 8-inch by 6-inch handmade, copper box, he immediately knew it was a time capsule and handed it over to Skvarla for investigation. The capsule contained 13 business-type cards with names on them, along with a 1912 Lincoln wheat penny, an 1894 Indian head wheat penny, and a tag with the name of the metalsmith who crafted the box.
The name of the university’s supervising architect, James McLaren White, was on one card. Other cards had the names of who Skvarla can only guess were Gateway committee members or employees of the Operations and Maintenance Department, the predecessor of F&S. Some of the cards had printed names on them, while others featured handwritten signatures. A Japanese name was even written on one card.
“I don’t know if he was a student, or maybe was working for F&S,” Skvarla said. “With so little documentation, it would take extensive research to find out who all those people were.”
The original time capsule was replaced and sealed into the rebuilt Gateway’s wall on Jan. 28. With it went a new plastic box that contained all the original items, plus several additional ones, including a written history of the capsule, a 2014 penny (2015 coins are not available yet), a 2014 Homecoming button, a photo CD of all the old and new items, and business cards with the names of those involved in assembling the 2015 box.
Because of the hand-signed cards and lack of other items, Skvalra guesses the insertion of the original time capsule was a last-minute addition to the Gateway, though he doesn’t guess why.
“Everyone wants to be remembered,” he said, “and that’s fun and interesting to see.”