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Century-old time capsule found at Minnesota high school during demolition

Owatonna High School time capsule opened after 100-plus years
Owatonna High School time capsule opened after 100-plus years 00:42

In what Superintendent Jeff Elstad called a "historic event for our community," a more than century-old time capsule has been discovered in the demolition of an old high school Owatonna, Minnesota. The contents of the capsule were unveiled for the first time during a press conference this week. 

Bob Olson, director of facilities, infrastructure and security at Owatonna Public Schools, said at the event that the capsule was discovered while an old school was being taken down. According to the Owatonna People's Press, it was the former Owatonna High School that had been erected in 1921. 

Owatonna Public Schools Director of Facilities, Infrastructure and Security Bob Olson carefully removes documents from a time capsule dated 1920 that was found during the demolition of an old high school site.  Owatonna Public Schools via YouTube

Olson said he had instructed construction crew members during the demolition to "nice and carefully" remove a cornerstone because they wanted to preserve it somewhere in the new district office or in a new high school. Inside that cornerstone, which was laid on September 30, 1920, was the time capsule

And inside was a vast collection – and a typed list of everything inside.  Among the items was a copy of one of the high school's first student newspaper volumes, finance committee reports, a list of mayors and city reporters, numerous items from the Minnesota Freemasons, and even a booklet written in Czech.

There was even information about the school at the time. The enrollment, uncovered documents show, was just 327 students in 1920. 

Owatonna Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Elstad and Director of Facilities, Infrastructure and Security Bob Olson examine documents hidden in a 1920 time capsule. Owatonna Public Schools via YouTube

"Today we have over 1,500 students at Owatonna High School," Elstad said. "So we've grown." 

Elstad said they are going to identify what documents in the capsule have "a direct tie to the school district." The items will go under curation, with the hopes that some of them will be able to be displayed at the new school district office and the high school. The Steele County Historical Society will also be taking some of the items for curation and display. 

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