The Solon Historical Society announced last week that the majority of contents of a 50-year-old time capsule, planned to be unveiled during last year’s bicentennial, was destroyed by water damage.
Councilman Robert Shimits, president of the society, said Monday that the capsule was actually opened at the end of 2019 at the Solon Service Department in anticipation of having a large grand opening event last June in honor of the bicentennial.
But the event, as well as the majority of all scheduled to mark the city’s bicentennial, was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was still hoped to have such an event, “but that boat has pretty well sailed,” he said.
Mr. Shimits said in a statement released last week that concerns regarding the possible condition of the contents of the time capsule and how it would affect the opening celebration convinced the society and the city to open it privately.
“The decision to open it privately turned out to be a good one,” he said in the statement.
When opened, the bottom of the vault contained about 6 inches of water.
“The treasures and documents that were carefully collected in 1970 were contained in a cardboard box,” the statement continued. “The contents of the box were water saturated with some unprotected documents, books and photo albums completely destroyed.
“If we had opened the time capsule in a huge public event it would have been a disaster and embarrassment to the City and Historical Society.”
Mr. Shimits said Monday that they are obviously disappointed in this outcome.
“There are certain things in there we really would have liked to see,” he said. That includes a photo album of areas around Solon as well as people from the past.
“Every photo was ruined,” Mr. Shimits said. “You could not make out anything.”
Yearbooks turned to “mush,” and were not salvageable, he continued.
The good news is that the society does have duplicates of many of the capsule’s contents and will have them on display at next week’s Home Days, July 23-25. It will make their booth that much more important, Mr. Shimits said.
One of the highlights of the contents were the letters written by the eighth-grade students from St Rita School describing what their vision of what Solon and the world may be like in 2020. All the letters have been transcribed and available for the public to read, Mr. Shimits said. The Society is also looking for those students that were in the St. Rita 8th grade class 1970 who may have written a letter.
“The children’s letters were interesting to read and how what some thought of the future actually happened,” Mr. Shimits said.
Other artifacts that were in the time capsule were letters from service groups, a script for the play “Happy Birthday Solon,” a sesquicentennial plate, wooden nickels, a reproduction of a pioneer dress, city documents, a Sesqui Ball hat, and more.
The time capsule was originally buried in 1974 in a concrete vault. The burial was delayed due to the Sesquicentennial Committee and the city wanting to bury it near the gazebo, Mr. Shimits explained. The widening of SOM Center Road and the moving of the gazebo delay that burial until 1974.
Another move to the Solon Historical Society grounds may have broken the seal on the vault, Mr. Shimits said.
Mr. Shimits said he believes that the Home Days booth will get lots of visitors as there were people interested in the capsule’s opening and many are still around who were involved in the collection of its artifacts and its burial.
He said they will do another time capsule for items from 2020 that will be buried in the summer of 2022 and are getting the word out about what should be collected. Those wishing to take part or desire more information can call the society at 440-248-3586.
Mr. Shimits said there are more choices now with commercially available watertight time capsules. The society will see if the city would partner in the effort, Mr. Shimits said of its purchase.