Since 1958, a hidden piece of the past in Concord has been waiting to be found

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Sen. Jeb Bradley holds up a copy of the Concord Monitor that was in the time capsule at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday.

Sen. Jeb Bradley holds up a copy of the Concord Monitor that was in the time capsule at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday.

Senator Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Sherman Packard share a laugh as DOJ COO Terry Pfaff shows an item in the time capsule as they open it at the old DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday.

Senator Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Sherman Packard share a laugh as DOJ COO Terry Pfaff shows an item in the time capsule as they open it at the old DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Senator Jeb Bradley and House Speaker inspect the time capsule as they open it at the old DOJ building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 0, 2024.

Senator Jeb Bradley and House Speaker inspect the time capsule as they open it at the old DOJ building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 0, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

The crowd at the opening of the time capsule at the former DOJ building on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

The crowd at the opening of the time capsule at the former DOJ building on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

House Speaker Sherman Packard and Senator Jeb Bradley, along with Senator Lou D'Allesandro look over the items of the time capsule at the former DOJ building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

House Speaker Sherman Packard and Senator Jeb Bradley, along with Senator Lou D'Allesandro look over the items of the time capsule at the former DOJ building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Some of the items inside the time capsule.

Some of the items inside the time capsule. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use a hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday.

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use a hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use an hammer to chip away at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street as they search for the time capsule on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Senator Jeb Bradley inspects the time capsule as they figure out how to open it at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Senator Jeb Bradley inspects the time capsule as they figure out how to open it at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use a circular saw to open the time capsule at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

A member of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts use a circular saw to open the time capsule at the cornerstone of the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts look over the time capsule as they retrieve it from the building on Tuesday morning.

Members of the S&R Demolition team out of Lowell, Massachusetts look over the time capsule as they retrieve it from the building on Tuesday morning.

Terence Pfaff, COO of the General Court of NH, opens up the time capsule as the crowd looks on at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Terence Pfaff, COO of the General Court of NH, opens up the time capsule as the crowd looks on at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street in Concord on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Sen. Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Sherman Packard inspect the time capsule as they open it at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday.

Sen. Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Sherman Packard inspect the time capsule as they open it at the former DOJ and Mechanics Bank building on North State Street on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 04-09-2024 5:34 PM

The jackhammer rattled away for a good 20 minutes Tuesday before a faded copper and lead container was pried from the corner of the Department of Justice building in downtown Concord that had been home to several banks.

Dozens of onlookers and state officials peered on as the buried artifact revealed a newspaper headline that proclaimed Wesley Powell had won the election for governor, and a photo of actress Loretta Young on the cover of the now extinct TV Guide. A single dollar bill was inside, but stacks of cash were nowhere to be found.

This time capsule, about the size of a safe deposit box, maybe two feet long and four inches wide, stood vertically like a little monolith behind the cracks and grime. A rotary cutter fought hard to open the container that had no real grooves to pry it open.

Small granite pebbles shot backward and stung some of the people who showed up to see what was in the capsule that until recently was unknown to everyone.

The building, flanked by North State, Green, School and Capitol streets, housed several banks since the late 1950s and will be torn down completely, making room for a new parking garage for legislators.

The story packs a twist since the capsule wasn’t discovered in the typical fashion. Normally, someone deceased has documented where a capsule is and when it should be opened. Anticipation builds as the date approaches, oftentimes after 50 years.

This time, Dean Dexter, who works for the state archives, saw a black-and-white photo in the Monitor, dated Nov. 12, 1958, while researching information on former U.S. Senator Henry Styles Bridges, a bank trustee.

Also shown in that edition were Douglas Everett, an Olympic medalist in hockey whose name bears the arena in Concord; John Terrill, bank president; Harold Blake, chairman of the board; and Bridges.

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They were shown placing the capsule in the home it would occupy for 65 years. There were no instructions about when and where to open it.

But the photo acted as a treasure map.

“I just said thank you,” Dexter said when he made the discovery. “I said to myself that this was excellent.”

He told Terry Pfaff, the chief operating officer for the General Court of New Hampshire, and the two made a plan that was carried out on Tuesday.

Dexter warned there may be a surprise hidden in the building and alerted Pfaff that construction should slow down while a search was conducted.

“They were laying the cornerstone and I wanted someone to know immediately that while they’re tearing down this building that they might need to be on the lookout for that,” Dexter said.

The plan to resurface this bit of city history quickly came together.

Officials who attended the event said they were confident the capsule was where they were looking. The Monitor made that clear in its photo, but there were no guarantees they nailed it.

Tuesday’s intriguing event brought to mind Geraldo Rivera’s much-hyped, live TV special in 1986. He would open Al Capone’s vault, found in the basement of the Lexington Hotel Chicago, and, hopefully, find cash and jewels and other valuables as millions watched. Water spilled out and worn, worthless, saturated paper was inside. That’s it.

Before the jackhammer began doing its thing Tuesday, Dexter was asked if he worried about finding wet paper and water.

“This could be like that,” Dexter said. “We don’t know. I guess it’s there. I know it’s there.”

One of the burly guys in a red hard hat and lime-yellow construction company T-shirt held the hammer like a police battering ram smashing down a door.

Trails of dust floated from the rod as it cracked the granite block with the state seal and the year the building was built, 1958. The granite began to crumble in chunks and smaller pieces that fell to the ground. A circular saw was needed to open the container.

The lead and copper rectangular item was buried on Nov. 5, 1958. The capsule contained the TV guide and the old Monitor newspaper with its top story about the race for governor. There was a laminated list of bank leaders, a laminated silver certificate dollar bill, laminated letters written by bank executives, a laminated photo of the entire bank staff posing as though at a company picnic and another with a rooftop view of downtown 65 years ago.

“I think this is cool because you know everybody here is really interested in that era even though it’s a relatively short time ago,” Dexter said, shortly after the eagerness had faded. “People are usually interested in something like this. I’m glad they found it.”