CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A cornerstone, or time capsule, that was recovered from beneath the John C. Calhoun monument during deconstruction was opened on Thursday.
Historians say various items were placed in the cornerstone back in 1858 to commemorate the first Calhoun monument.
The only documents of what may have been inside came from a newspaper article from the then-called News and Courier in 1934, including a cannonball, a case containing a banner, and other items.
Crews say the cornerstone was initially buried in the center of Marion Square in anticipation of moving the monument from the north side of the square to the center. It was later excavated from that location and placed in the foundation of the monument on the south edge of Marion Square in 1886.
It was later removed from the foundation in January 2021, where crews had been deconstructing the monument’s base, after the statue was taken down in June 2020.
After a lengthy process of peeling back layers of rock more than a century old, historians gently prepared the cornerstone for its opening.
Historians removed the cornerstone’s lid Thursday afternoon and revealed the contents inside- including an eroding cannonball and what appear to be three metal containers.
“Artifacts are an important part of the history of the story of Mr. Calhoun,” says Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “We’d like to consider including them in a historical display along with the statue because they really go together.”
The items will have to be surveyed and studied before they are able to safely open the containers to reveal what is inside.
“We may have to bring in some folks to help us find the best solutions for stabilizing and conserving the materials that are inside,” says Eric Poplin who served as Senior Archaeologist for Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting on the project.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the future of the cornerstone’s contents is up in the air, but he believes wherever they end up, they should be kept with Calhoun’s statue.
Poplin says preservation crews could take more than six weeks to examine and preserve the contents of the cornerstone.