MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The crowd filled the Hilton Library, with some even standing outside in snow and 20 degree weather, to watch as the contents of a time capsule buried in a Maplewood church's cornerstone over 100 years ago were revealed on Saturday morning.
The time capsule, which was enclosed inside the cornerstone of the former Hilton Methodist Church (located at the corner of Boyden Ave. and Tuscan Rd.), was found by workers last year during the demolition of the church. A new apartment building will be built on the site.
Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca welcomed the audience and thanked all for coming, followed by several speakers who shared remembrances of the Hilton Methodist Church. Susan Newberry and Gail Safian, trustees of the Durand-Hedden House and Garden Association (Maplewood's historical society), provided information about the history of the church. Newberry, who is the Maplewood Township Historian, also created a historical timeline and photo displays which were on view at the event.
Before the time capsule was opened, not only were the contents unknown, but even what year they would be from was a mystery, as it was unclear when the time capsule was first placed in the cornerstone, which had two dates - 1836 and 1898.
The owner and developer of the property, Mark Carelli, who is a Maplewood resident, said that when he first saw the church's cornerstone he knew he wanted to save it even though he wasn't "sure what I would do with it." It was only later that he realized it contained "something special," and found the lead box in the cornerstone.
Prior to revealing the contents before the audience, Carelli had precut the box, in hopes that further opening would be easy.
De Luca asked "are you ready," and with cheers from the crowd, Carelli began drilling. The box was opened and the contents shared for all to see, which included a Newark Evening News newspaper dated July 8, 1898, a copy of a New Testament Bible from 1897, handwritten notes from members of the Hilton Methodist Church, and a photograph of the church.
Also enclosed in the time capsule were businesses cards of the church builders, an invitation to the lying of the cornerstone at the church, and an invitation to a revival meeting taking place from Dec. 21, 1897 to Jan. 2, 1898.
In addition to these papers, the time capsule also had several coins, including four pennies dated 1898.
While some coins were oxidized, the papers were all in good condition, sealed remarkably well for over 100 years.
Mayor De Luca thanked Carelli for his "willingness to preserve history." Frank McGehee, Maplewood Township Committee Member, stated that while he wasn't sure what he expected to find inside the capsule, what was inside "exceeded expectations."
The contents of the time capsule will be on display, possibly in the Hilton Library, where they were seen for the first time in over 100 years, on this snowy Saturday morning.