Crews may have found 1887 time capsule in Lee statue base

Workers install scaffolding as they prepare to remove the pedestal that once held the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue Monday Dec 6, 2021, in Richmond, Va. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the pedestal removed and the land granted to the City of Richmond. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va. – Crews working to remove the pedestal where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee towered over Richmond for more than a century believe they’ve found a time capsule that was buried there in 1887.

The massive bronze equestrian statue of Lee, erected in 1890, was taken down in September, more than a year after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered its removal after protests over racism and police brutality erupted across the country following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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The day after the statue was removed, work crews spent more than 12 hours searching for the time capsule in the 40-foot (12-meter) tall pedestal, but were unable to locate it.

On Friday, crews found a square box embedded in a granite stone. The box appears to be the copper time capsule, said Devon Henry, owner of the construction company that is working to remove the pedestal.

Clark Mercer, Northam’s chief of staff, confirmed the discovery, but said crews still need to dislodge the box from a large granite block to be sure it is the time capsule.

“It looks like it is (the time capsule),” Mercer said. “We’re hoping it hasn’t been damaged by water over the last 100-plus years.”

A newspaper article from 1887 suggests the capsule contains Civil War memorabilia and a “picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin,” although historians believe it’s doubtful the picture is an actual photograph, which would be rare and valuable.

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