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Reassembly of pedestal to former Lee Monument continues after time capsule search ends

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:56 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Reassembly of the pedestal to the former Robert. E. Lee Monument will continue into at least Saturday after the search effort for the time capsule proved unsuccessful.

The Virginia Dept. of General Services said on Friday the pedestrian fences around the neighborhood were removed, allowing traffic to flow on Monument Avenue once again.

“Next, the ground needs repair from the heavy machinery used to bring down the statue, and all debris and other material must be removed from the site,” a DGS spokesman tweeted. “This may take several days, and fencing will remain in place around the circle to enable this work to proceed safely.”

On Thursday, contractors spent more than 11 hours removing nearly two-dozen pieces of granite to the pedestal in the search for the 1887 treasure said to be hidden in the Northeast cornerstone.

“Hate the monument if you want but be impressed by the construction and the artwork on it,” said Dale Brumfield, a Richmond journalist.

In an hours long search for the hidden treasure, crews went through the tedious process of removing the interlocking pieces of granite.

According to several historical documents and books, the time capsule was said to be in or under the Northeast cornerstone, now spraypainted with the word “unity”.

While the search turned up empty, for Brumfield, the hope remains.

“I’m convinced it’s still there,” he said. “The ceremony was too great and too well covered, too many people - 25,000 people showed up for this ceremony in 1887 and watched this stone be lowered.”

Those accounts can be read through newspaper articles in the days leading up to and after that ceremony on Oct. 27, 1887.

An article in The Richmond Dispatch from Oct. 25, 1887 specifically mentions the 14x14 inch box and possible contents.

In a Richmond Dispatch newspaper article from Oct. 25, 1887, it says a box will be placed in...
In a Richmond Dispatch newspaper article from Oct. 25, 1887, it says a box will be placed in the cornerstone of the Lee monument.(Library of Virginia)

“Mr. W. B. Isaacs, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Masons, who as requested by the Committee of the Lee Monument Association to receive suitable articles from the public to go into the corner-stone, declined to give a list of articles received until today at 12 o’clock, when the box will be closed and subsequent contributions rejected,” the article read. “The list of articles so far is very short, and consists of the usual assortment of coins, books, papers, &e.”

After spending the day on site for the search, Brumfield went back to the archives Thursday evening searching for more information.

“Looking at it now through fresh eyes… I said oh, that’s what they meant!” he said. “I see what they did now. They put the time capsule in the support column and then poured concrete on top and then set the stone on top of that.”

Crews did work on chiseling that column, and even took a metal detector to it, but ultimately came to another determination.

“More of those giant three and four-ton blocks would have to be taken out and it becomes obvious that this is just too much money, too much work, and too much expense,” Brumfield said. “Let’s just move forward.”

That is what is happening.

On Friday morning, crews began reassembling the 21 pieces back where they once were. The process though, has been along one, much like the removal.

The Va. Dept. of General Services expects the reassembly to continue through at least Saturday; seven pieces remain.

However, a new time capsule will be installed in the middle portion of the Northeast cornerstone.

“It is like a metal bank vault,” Brumfield said. “They’re putting it over top the original cornerstone instead of under it. I’m confident there’s no water seepage that could come up from the bottom, no rain can come in from the top. I’m confident that one will last a really long time.”

And hopefully future generations will not have any issues finding it, unlike the 1887 capsule.

Following the search for the time capsule, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office released the following statement:

“After a long hard day, it’s clear the time capsule won’t be found—and Virginia is done with lost causes,” said a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office. “The search for this moldy Confederate box is over. We’re moving on.”

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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