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Nearly 100-year-old time capsule discovered by Norwalk demo crew

Getting the time capsule open took a little work. Singewald and Franze used tools to chip away at the opening, but slowly, they pried out each item.

Marissa Alter

Apr 19, 2024, 11:24 PM

Updated 61 days ago

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In 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop across the Atlantic, Calvin Coolidge was president and a gallon of gas cost $0.21.
That same year, Norwalk city leaders put together a time capsule as they broke ground on the Norwalk YMCA and held a dedication ceremony. The Y on West Avenue was a mainstay for over 80 years, closing at the end of 2012. The landmark brick building remained vacant since then, with no movement at the property, until recently when demolition began to make way for new apartments. A crew from Complete Dismantling Services started to tear down the building in March.
“My grandparents years ago said when they built prominent buildings, it was a practice to put something in the cornerstone of the building,” said Todd Singewald, operating engineer for CDS.
So Singewald kept an eye out, as he has on work sites for over 40 years.
“You always look for that pot of gold,” Singewald told News 12, laughing. “But this is the first time we got lucky, and actually found something. It’s pretty cool.” It happened last week when workers got to the building's roughly 200-pound engraved cornerstone and found a box sealed inside.
“I thought it was great,” said Jeff Franze, a CDS operator, adding that there had been a rumor the old building might house a time capsule.
Franze explained workers carefully removed the cornerstone and made sure it was protected. On Monday, CDS called the Norwalk Historical Society.
“They wanted to know if we were interested in it, and I said, ‘Of course we're interest in it!’” said David Westmoreland, who’s on the Norwalk Historical Society board of directors.
So, Friday afternoon, city leaders and staff joined the demo crew to crack it open.
“We're all quite anxious to see what's in it. We've had lots of different ideas. Everyone has an opinion,” Singewald said. His guess was coins from that era. “Probably a newspaper and who knows what else,” Franze told News 12 before the big reveal. “Your imagination runs wild. I thought there could be anything in there,” Mayor Harry Rilling said, adding maybe even a Babe Ruth homerun baseball. Getting the time capsule open took a little work. Singewald and Franze used tools to chip away at the opening, but slowly, they pried out each item, beginning with two yellowed newspapers. Though some pages were ripped and decomposing, the papers were in remarkably good shape for being nearly 100 years old. “You pull something out, you wonder what's underneath it,” Rilling said. “It's just the anticipation, the excitement. That's why you can see so many people here.”
About two dozen people were there, most with their phones out to record it all. Two coins from then, a dime and a quarter, were inside, along with a bible and a pen.
“Typically, you find a newspaper and a coin, but we found two coins,” Westmoreland stated. “The fountain pen I was surprised by. The bible—it was the YMCA so that's no surprising at all.”
He explained what went through his mind as he saw each item of local history.
“I was thinking about the day they dedicated it in 1927 and how excited they were to build a YMCA in Norwalk,” Westmoreland said.
News 12 got a copy of The Norwalk Hour’s newspaper article about that day, which ran in the Oct. 31, 1927, edition. The piece includes a list of items inside a sealed box in the cornerstone: a bible, copies of The Norwalk Hour and The Sentinel newspapers, coins of present, the pen used to sign the contract for the YMCA project, a list of people who were part of the 1926 finance campaign for the Y, printed material from that campaign, a list of the board of directors, a list of the architects and contractors, and something called “spizzerinktum stars.”
It’s unclear if the additional items decomposed inside the time capsule or just haven’t been pulled out yet. It appeared there could have been things still stuck in the cornerstone. Everything will be turned over to the Norwalk Historical Society. Westmoreland said the contents of the time capsule will be on display in the next couple of weeks at the Norwalk Historical Society Museum, which is on East Avenue next to City Hall. The cornerstone will become part of the garden behind the museum.


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