The box was found in the northwest corner of the building.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When the Zion Lutheran Church was built on First Street in 1892, the congregation placed a time capsule in the cornerstone.
And it sat there for 125 years. The Rev. Timothy Weisman knew there was one somewhere in the building's structure, but wasn't sure where.
Seven months ago, the church embarked on a $1.2 million renovation and the mason dug around the northwest corner of the building and found it.
The capsule was placed there on July 13, 1892.
"After a renovation of about seven months, coinciding with the 125th anniversary of the building, we decided to take the time capsule out of the cornerstone and see what is inside," Weisman said.
On Saturday, the church did exactly that. Weisman was joined by John Burnett, a member of the parish council and a librarian at a research library, to pull the contents from the box.
Inside they found a collection of newspapers — two local ones with stories on the church's construction, some religious ones, and a few from other parts of the country. They found a program from the ceremony, a receipt for building materials, a copy of the church's original constitution, a roster of parishioners and board members, and a set of 1892 coins — one of each type.
"I thought the coins were really interesting. Every kid, I think, was a coin collector at one point and to see coins from 1892, that was really awesome to me. But, also I really can't wait to look at the newspapers to see what was being talked about in Pittsfield in 1892. I have no idea," Weisman said.
Some of the books and newspapers, however, caused some trouble for Weisman and Burnett. They were written in German — including a newspaper from Germany.
"There was only one German church. This was the German language church, as opposed to other languages having multiple churches," Weisman said. "They were probably not expecting, or maybe they did, that few people would be able to read it fluently. They probably wouldn't have expected their pastor 125 years later not to be fluent in German."
But, not to worry, there are parishioners who can translate the materials. And the materials are in very good conditions. Some of the old church programs were in better shape than ones the church has had in its collection of documents.
"If you were going to put together a time capsule for someone to open 125 years later, this is the way to do it: a copper box completely soldered shut. The books, newspapers, and programs were all in really great condition, surprisingly so," Weisman said.
The box was sealed so well, that construction managers used hand tools to open it prior to Saturday just make sure they could. But Weisman said the items were kept in place. On Saturday, the box was so jammed packed that it was difficult for the pair to pull the items out at first.
"We didn't know what was inside. We expected newspapers, that seems pretty common," Weisman said.
The parish was founded in 1859 and the church constructed in 1892. In 1960, an addition was added to the building. And this year, the church went through a renovation of the original section.
"In the 1892 building, new fire alarm, new handicapped accessibility, new heating system, new air conditioning system — air conditioning for the very first time which is really hard to install in a 125-year-old building," Weisman said.
"We really feel this project has been a marriage of the old building with some new modern things... The goal is to make this building sustainable for another generation."
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