Crews find potential time capsule in base of Calhoun Statue in downtown Charleston

Updated: Jan. 23, 2021 at 9:54 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Crews found what they believe is the long-rumored time capsule hidden in the base of the former John C. Calhoun statue that once stood in downtown Charleston’s Marion Square.

They made the discovery at about noon Saturday as they continued cleanup of the area where the monument to the former statesman stood for 124 years. Historians say the capsule was originally buried in 1858, eight years after Calhoun died. But it was moved twice, ending up in its final resting place at the base of the statue.

Eric Poplin, a senior archeologist with Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting, said the capsule will be opened in a controlled environment to protect its anticipated contents.

“At least an iron tin, paper, textiles, there was a banner in a tin case that was carried in Calhoun’s funeral procession,” he said. “So, all of those materials will react differently once this thing is opened up to the air.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg arrived shortly after crews found what they had been searching for. He said while the city voted to remove the statue after public outcry over Calhoun’s pro-slavery stance, he feels it is still important to protect the contents of a Calhoun time capsule.

“This is all appropriate I believe to preserve the history and be able to tell the stories for generations to come,” he said. “They’ve done an incredible job of meticulously taking apart the base in hopes of finding what we found here today.”

Back in October, City of Charleston Director of Parks Jason Kronsberg said that crews were expecting to find out if there is a time capsule in the statue. He said it would either be in a hollowed-out spot in the structure or a lead box.

The statue which once stood over Marion Square Park was taken down in July following the George Floyd Protests and Black Lives Matter movement seen across the country.

Calhoun was a South Carolina statesman and the seventh Vice President of United States, but he was also a staunch defender of slavery.

Kronsberg said this time capsule was mentioned in a Post and Courier article nearly 100 years ago, and inside they think it may have several different items. Among those listed include a cannonball recovered from the harbor believed to have been used in the battle of Fort Moultrie, 100 dollars in Continental money, a lock of Calhoun’s hair, and more.

Work to open the capsule and examine any surviving contents is expected to begin Monday.

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