Boston time capsule believed found in lion statue
Boston — What appears to be a window to Boston’s past has turned up in a rather unusual place: the head of a lion’s statue on the building that once served as the seat of Massachusetts government.
The Bostonian Society, which operates a museum at the Old State House, said Tuesday it had confirmed the presence of what had long been rumored to be a time capsule from 1901 tucked away inside the copper statue. The statue was recently taken down from the roof as part of a restoration effort.
A fiber optic camera was used to locate the time capsule — in actuality a copper box — in the head of the lion, according to Heather Leet, the society’s director of development. The next steps, she said, will include an attempt to carefully open the statue without damaging it, followed by the removal of the box and examination of its contents.
The group first learned of the potential existence of the time capsule several years ago from a woman who was a descendent of the original sculptor.
“She had a letter from him and a list of things in the time capsule,” said Leet.
The society did some further research and uncovered a 1901 article about the time capsule in The Boston Globe, she said.
Newspaper clippings and photographs from the period, along with letters from politicians and other prominent Bostonians of the era, are among the items expected to be found in the box, which could be opened as early as next week.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what those letters say,” said Leet, adding that they could contain messages written to future generations.
The Old State House, among Boston’s most popular tourist attractions, has a storied history. It was one of the city’s most important civic buildings in colonial times and later became a focal point of the American Revolution.
The Boston Massacre took place just outside the building in 1770. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians from the balcony. After the war of independence, the building served as the first seat of Massachusetts government until construction of the current Statehouse in the late 18th century.
The first lion statue, along with that of a unicorn, was placed on the building in 1713 as symbols to mark the unification of England and Scotland, Leet said. The statues were destroyed amid the subsequent patriotic fervor, but were replaced more than a century later by the society as part of an effort to preserve the building and restore its historical look.