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Historic items found, but time capsule missing

  • 18_news_LehStone1.jpg
    Members of the Pennsylvania State Police Forensics Unit, Hazleton, prepare to "ultrasound" the cornerstone of the Lehighton Municipal Building in the search for the borough's 1966 Centennial time capsule. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
Published November 29. 2016 02:46PM

To onlookers, the scene at the Lehighton Municipal Building may have resembled a treasure hunt.

Their observations proved to be right, as the cornerstone to the municipal building was recently opened in the hopes of finding the borough’s 1966 centennial time capsule.

Autumn Abelovsky, secretary of the Lehighton 150th Celebration Committee said the task of finding the time capsule was on the minds of committee members after they received numerous leads as to where the time capsule from the 1966 centennial was buried or hidden.

She said walls of the municipal building, the Pfc. Clyde R. Houser Building, and the fairgrounds were all supposedly “remembered” locations, none of which proved correct, while others said a time capsule was not a part of the centennial, and no records could be found to support one.

As a last-ditch effort, she said the committee chose to act on a lead that the cornerstone of the municipal building was removed at the centennial celebration and replaced with a time capsule.

With the assistance of borough police Chief Brian Biechy, the Pennsylvania State Police Forensics Unit, Hazleton, was contacted, Abelovsky said.

She said the state police brought a ground-penetrating radar machine to “ultrasound” the cornerstone, and were able to determine that there was indeed a void in the stone. At that point, a hole was drilled and an electronic eye was placed into the void, as typography could be viewed through the electronic eye, Abelovsky said.

It was determined that the cornerstone would be removed by the borough’s Public Works Department, and the copper vault inside would be opened with the assistance of the Forensic Collection Team of state police, she said.

“Many may question why this was not publicized as an event for the town to witness,” Abelovsky said. “Unfortunately, the arrangement with the state police was based on their availability.”

Abelovsky said that state police also used the opportunity to train new troopers on the devices.

“The opening proved to be both happy, and bittersweet,” she said. “While documents were inside, they were severely damaged by water.”

And it was found to not be the 1966 time capsule, but it was no less important. The cornerstone items were from the building of the municipal building in 1936.

Abelovsky said the 80-year-old items are being dried, and the committee hopes to have an unveiling of them for the public once they are cataloged and documented.

The documents will most likely be turned over to the Lehighton Area Historical Alliance.

The cornerstone will be sealed and fixed with a plaque documenting the opening, while the 150th time capsule is being officially sealed once warmer weather approaches again, she said.

Abelovsky said the committee will be closing out its account, which has a balance of about $10,000 that will be turned over to the borough’s new parks and recreation committee.

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