Century-Old Time Capsule Found

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In what Superintendent Jeff Elstad called a “historic event for our community,” a more than century-old time capsule has been discovered in the demolition of an old high school Owatonna, Minnesota. The contents of the capsule were unveiled for the first time during a press conference this week.

A fascinating discovery indeed! During the demolition of the old Owatonna High School in Owatonna, Minnesota, construction workers stumbled upon a 104-year-old time capsule that had been buried back in 1920. The capsule was tucked away inside a cornerstone from when the building was originally erected.

Bob Olson, director of facilities, infrastructure and security at Owatonna Public Schools, said at the event that the capsule was discovered while an old school was being taken down. According to the Owatonna People’s Press, it was the former Owatonna High School that had been erected in 1921.

Olson said he had instructed construction crew members during the demolition to “nice and carefully” remove a cornerstone because they wanted to preserve it somewhere in the new district office or in a new high school. Inside that cornerstone, which was laid on September 30, 1920, was the time capsule.

And inside was a vast collection – and a typed list of everything inside. Among the items was a copy of one of the high school’s first student newspaper volumes, finance committee reports, a list of mayors and city reporters, numerous items from the Minnesota Freemasons, and even a booklet written in Czech.

At a press conference held after the discovery, community members were finally able to see the contents of this century-old treasure. So, what did they find inside? Let’s take a peek:

  • Newspapers and Financial Statements: Among the artifacts were newspapers from the era, providing a snapshot of the news and events that shaped the community during the early 1920s.
  • High School Publication: A copy of one of the 1920 issues of the current high school publication, the Owatonna High School Magnet, was also part of the capsule. It’s fascinating to think about the stories and perspectives captured in those pages.
  • Community Newspaper: Another document found was a copy of a community newspaper. Imagine the local stories, advertisements, and announcements preserved within those yellowed pages!
  • Budget Documents: The capsule contained budget documents, shedding light on the financial aspects of running the school and the community at that time.
    List of Administration Staff: A list of administration staff members was also included. Names that might still resonate in the present-day community, connecting the past to the present.

Owatonna Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Elstad expressed pride in the discovery, emphasizing how it reflects the history and tradition of their community. The documents serve as a testament to the enduring bond between strong schools and strong communities.

“Seeing those documents the other night was just another testimony for me as a superintendent and longtime resident in our community that our community cares, and they’ve cared for a couple hundred years,” he said.

He added, “I believe that strong schools build strong communities — and likewise, strong communities are supported by strong schools.”

There was even information about the school at the time. The enrollment, uncovered documents show, was just 327 students in 1920.

“Today we have over 1,500 students at Owatonna High School,” Elstad said. “So we’ve grown.”

Elstad said they are going to identify what documents in the capsule have “a direct tie to the school district.” The items will go under curation, with the hopes that some of them will be able to be displayed at the new school district office and the high school. The Steele County Historical Society will also be taking some of the items for curation and display.

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Posted in Blog, Events, History, News.