A glimpse into the past: time capsule discovered in former Jacksonville City Hall



Contents of the time capsule found last year.

Hannah Santos, Contributing Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla, — Imagine if teenagers would still think fidget spinners are cool in 2079.

Time waits for no one.

In a blink of an eye, all the trends, events and celebrities that are so popular today can be forgotten.

However, today, we can capture moments in history through various types of media, such Instagram photos, Twitter posts, and YouTube videos. This digital generation is fortunate to have this advanced technology today. On the other hand, the generation before home computers were installed had its own creative ways to record and remind people of history.

In the middle of a demolition last year a construction worker discovered a time capsule buried in the cornerstone of the former Jacksonville City Hall on Bay Street. The box dated back to October 1960. Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman took the liberty of opening the time capsule on Oct. 3, 2018 to find what mysterious items the past had waiting for us.

Laura Minor, librarian of special collections at the Jacksonville Public Library, was fortunate to witness the opening.

“I remember being surprised at the amount of stuff that fit in that tiny little time capsule,” Minor said. “I remember the feeling of the anticipation.”

Spread across the table were pictures of former city councilmen, newspapers, business cards, letters, financial record, dedications, and a couple of items with no explanations to them. Two unexplained items were a cigarette box and a rusted key enveloped in a paper with numbers.

JPA associate Hannah Bedenbaugh not only did research on the time capsule’s items, but on the city hall annex buildings themselves, dating back from the original city hall building in 1902. Bedenbaugh has some theories on these items’ significance.

“I think it’s one of the strongest indicators that it was just simply a different time,” Bedebuagh said. “You would think that was something culturally important to put into a time capsule.”

Smoking today is frowned upon by majority, but back in 1960, it was normal.

“I remember reading some old library documents as far as the Cod of Conduct, it said at one point you can smoke anywhere in the building except for when you’re on the reference desk,” said Minor. “I can’t even imagine. Now you have to be about fifty feet away.”

And then there’s the key.

“I think the numbers were the room numbers,” Bedebaugh said. “The key belonged to one council member, and I’m thinking, I’m not quite sure if it went to the new or old building, I’m guessing the new building.”

By “new,” she meant the new building in 1960 at the time. Unfortunately, the conditions of the current City Hall annex during pre-demolition were so poor that researchers were not able to use the key to test which room it could unlock. That’s one mystery that will likely never be solved.

There are other relics in the set that makes us wonder what Jacksonville residents and leaders were like back then. On a note written by Thomas F. Watts, it stated his date of birth, and the fact that he was a retired U.S. Navy.

“Do you have space ships? How is the moon?” Watts wrote.

Time capsules spark curiosity. They feed the curiosity of the people in the present, and they reflect the curiosity of people in the past for what they have hoped for the future. They are made to capture a moment in time: the things in society that people were involved in that were popular and what they believed in.

Bedenbaugh believes that past leaders of Jacksonville established this time capsule not only to communicate with the future but to also demonstrate the city’s progress they were building for future generations.

“I think they want us to understand Jacksonville as a prominent Southeastern city.”