Breaking open the past

Marshall city workers open up time capsule sealed inside city hall’s 1964 cornerstone

Photos by Deb Gau Above, Lyon County Museum Director Jennifer Andries lifts a copy of the Marshall Messenger out of a time capsule taken from Marshall’s city hall building on Main Street. Below, the time capsule was sealed behind the city hall building’s 1964 cornerstone.

MARSHALL — Marshall’s city hall building on Main Street has been mostly empty for about a month now, except for workers removing hazardous materials. But the building still held some surprises, as a group of staff from the city of Marshall and the Lyon County Museum found out Thursday.

The group was gathered around in front of the building, where city employees had cut out the mortar from around city hall’s 1964 cornerstone. The stone was carefully slid out, revealing a time capsule from the building’s dedication over 50 years ago. Marshall public ways superintendent Dean Coudron picked up the capsule, a copper rectangle a little bigger and deeper than a shirt box, and gave it a shake.

“It’s got some stuff in it,” Coudron said.

The problem was how to get at it. As Coudron inspected the box, he found it had been soldered shut. Opening it would take more than the screwdrivers city staff had on hand. The time capsule opening would have to reconvene at the city shop.

Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said the city knew there was a time capsule in the city hall building.

“We had a (newspaper) article that said it was there,” Hanson said. With the building about to undergo some major renovations, it was a good time to retrieve and open the capsule.

Hanson didn’t have information on what exactly was inside the time capsule, but she figured local newspapers from the 1960s were a likely bet.

What city staff hadn’t planned on was how well the time capsule would be sealed shut. At the Marshall city shop, Coudron and mechanic Greg Haugen used a drill to make a hole in a bottom corner of the box, and then cut open the metal.

“It looks like papers – a load of papers,” Haugen said.

Lyon County Museum Director Jennifer Andries looked through and identified the papers as they were taken out of the time capsule. There were photos of the city hall building’s construction, and its architects and construction foremen. There were lots of newspapers — copies of both the Marshall Messenger and the Lyon County Independent, covering the planning of city hall’s construction in 1962 up through its dedication.

“Here’s the thing, though,” Andries said, as she looked through the papers. “We have a 1965 newspaper in a 1964 time capsule.”

Other materials in the box were also from 1965. A typewritten list of the items in the time capsule said they came from the building’s official dedication, in 1965.

Along with the newspapers and photos, the box also contained a rundown of construction costs, as well as costs for architecture and engineering, electrical and mechanical work, and office furnishings and equipment. Cost sheets for office furniture included items from Dayton’s as well as from local furniture sellers.

Altogether, the 1964 city hall cost $444,822.64. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator, that amount of money in 1964 would have the same buying power as $3.699 million today.

Hanson said the city is donating the time capsule items to the Lyon County Museum. Andries said the time capsule items will be on display at the museum, probably starting in early April.