Maplewoodians love history.
An estimated throng of 500 crowded into the Hilton Branch of the Maplewood Library on Springfield Avenue on Saturday morning, January 7, to watch the opening of an 118-year-old metal time capsule that was found in the cornerstone of the former Methodist Church at Boyden Avenue and Tuscan Street. Children sat atop stacks and on the shoulders of their parents and those who couldn’t make it inside the library peered in from a picture window as snow accumulated on their hats and hoods.
Developer and local resident Mark Carelli found the box in the cornerstone during demolition of the church to make way for construction of a 30-unit apartment building (Carelli and Mayor Victor DeLuca said the church was too deteriorated to be saved). Carelli, who renovated and owns Pierson’s Mill in Maplewood, set the box aside and contacted DeLuca to arrange a public opening.
Former pastors of the church along with town historian Susan Newberry and Gail Safian of Durand-Hedden addressed the crowd before the opening.
Despite some nervousness that this could be another Geraldo Rivera/Al Capone’s vault fiasco, the room was excited. And the contents did not disappoint.
Once the box was opened, these items were found inside:
- A copy of the Newark Evening News from Friday, July 8, 1898
- A copy of the New Testament
- Cards listing the officers and members of the church
- A picture of the church
- A letter dated July 7, 1898
- Business cards for the mason and other contractors who built the church
- An invitation for the laying of the cornerstone on July 9, 1898 at 4 p.m.
- A card advertising/listing services and a revival meeting
- 4 pennies dated 1898
- 1 dime
- 1 nickel (too oxidized to read the date)
The items all offered insights into life in Hilton in 1898 — from directives to take the trolley, to headlines in the Newark Evening News related to the Spanish-American war.
DeLuca said that the permanent disposition of the items had not yet been determined. Newberry later said that they would be on display at the Hilton Branch at least for a time.
Photos by Claire Sinclair: