Historic time capsule found at Washington Monument

Historians Second Time Capsule in Baltimore's Washington Monument
Historians Second Time Capsule in Baltimore's Washington Monument

BALTIMORE (WBAL) -A piece of history has been discovered in Baltimore.

The original cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Baltimore, thought to be long lost, was discovered last week while crews dug for a sewage tank.

"We discovered the cornerstone last week. No one has ever known where it is, so it's a pretty neat find. It's well known that they laid a cornerstone, but they never actually mentioned where the cornerstone was actually placed in the building. So it's pretty neat to have found it," said Lance Humphries, a historian with the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy.

In a story that captures Baltimore's personality -- uniquely quirky and a little bit mysterious -- the 200-year-old contents of a time capsule found inside the cornerstone were unveiled Wednesday.

"We stopped all work, sent everyone else away and started hand excavation," project superintendent George Wilk II said.

It took until Monday to lift the stone, which weighs 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. It's a nearly perfect granite cube with a marble lid.

Humphries called his first look inside an incredible moment.

"It was amazing to see inside the cornerstone that there was this beautifully carved (decorative) panel of the stone masons and the stone carvers from 1815," Humphries said.

The time capsule contained three large glass jars that were in perfect shape, stuffed and wrapped with newspapers.

"Here are all these newspapers dated July 1 and July 3, 1815, and you just felt these people in 1815 taking those the next day and putting them in this container and burying them," Humphries said.

The contents were typical cornerstone offerings at the time, according to historians. But Baltimore is anything but typical: The Washington Monument was hiding two time capsules. The first one was found in October.

"The cornerstone really speaks to the importance of the Washington Monument," Humphries said. "This was the first monument to Washington in this country, and they knew that when they were laying this stone that this was a very big moment for Baltimore, Maryland, and the United States to be building this monument."

Historians know there's likely more stuff in the box than just the bottles. Accounts from the time mention coins and some kind of metal plate, but no one is touching the contents until the cornerstone is moved to the Walters Art Museum for analysis and safekeeping.

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Originally published