Thursday, June 11, 2015

Those darn cornerstones

What truly are the intentions of the cornerstone layers?  They all seem to have the silver trowel.  They all get current events, lists and activities dumped into the metal boxes that are put in hollowed part of the actual stone.  This Connecticut high school recovered their original box had been put in the cornerstone of their old building in 1884.  They knocked it down in 1968.  However, nobody could really remember where it was.  They had the workmen look out for it.  The stone itself got bulldozed but the box survived.

This what was in it:

Contents of the cornerstone are: a copy of the Holy Bible, the report of the State Board of Education, the school laws of Connecticut, the names of the teachers off all of the public and private schools in the vicinity, a United States silver dollar of 1884, a copy of the the Connecticut Courant dated Oct 29, 1764 (the first paper printed in Connecticut), also two copies of the paper dated April 17 and 18, 1884, the Saugatuck Journal of 1828, the Westport Advertiser of October and November 1867, the Westporter (the town paper) of March 25, 18756 and of April 19, 1884..  An almanac printed in 1789, a copy of the program at the laying of the cornerstone, a report of the activities of the cornerstone committee, a biographical sketch of Horace Staples, a list of the fire companies of the town, the by-laws of the Compo (fire) Engine company, the bylaws of the Temple Lodge, the names of the architects who drew the plans of the building, the names of the workmen employed in laying the foundation.
A report of the 17th regiment, a Fairfield paper dated August 1883, a list of the officers and members of the Westport band, the names of the singers and speakers of the occasion, copies of each of the New York papers of that day, a dollar bill of 1860 of the old Saugatuck bank, passbook No. 1374 of the Westport bank, a photograph of Horace Staples, the Bridgeport Standard dated February 27, 1884, copy of the Boston News Letter (the first paper in American dated April 17, 1704, the Connecticut Almanac of 1884, the names of all the churches and clergy in the vicinity.

How big was the box anyway?  So much stuff?  What we they thinking?  Seriously what are they doing?  Are they expecting to teach some lessons to some dystopian future?  Little green men in space ships?  Do they want to validate their own civic activities and community to some future generation who may have forgotten all about them?

It's not a time capsule because there's no plan to recover it at a particular date.  And, as far as I can tell, there's no  recovery plan at all.  The only ay you can get it is to knock the building down or get things down to the foundation.

Neil Harris in his book looks at this rigorously.  But his buildings almost become sentient, not sure if I'm ready to go that far.

The picture above was a 1956 cornerstone laying on an alumni building at North Carolina State.  White men presiding.  But look there's always a silver trowel involved.

No comments: