October 21, 2013

Waterville cemetery chapel discovery offers glimpse of past, potential for future

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Masons repairing the old Pine Grove Cemetery Chapel on Grove Street recently found a 106-year-old time capsule embedded in a cornerstone of the building.

click image to enlarge

Trudy Lovely, superintendent of the Pine Grove cemetary in Waterville, displays a small box that contained a penny, pen and four 1907 Morning Sentinel newspaper pages that was found by workers tucked away in a time capsule near a corner stone at the cemetary chapel.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

Joseph Lynch, left, and Eric Timmins repair stonework on the outside of the Pine Grove Cemetery chapel in Waterville on Monday. Timmens found a time capsule box near the corner stone of the building that contains four 1907 Morning Sentinel pages and a penny.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

Inside the little copper box was an old penny, a tiny and corroded writing pen, Morning Sentinel newspaper pages from August 1907 and a contract between the city and company that built the chapel.

“Oh, my God — I was just so excited when they found it,” said Pine Grove Cemetery Superintendent Trudy Lovely. “I love history.”

The city-owned chapel, built in 1907, originally was used for funeral services. Lovely estimates that in the 1940s or ’50s, officials stopped holding funerals there and turned it into offices for the cemetery.

Lovely worked for nearly 30 years in the chapel until three years ago, when the stone building had deteriorated to the point that it was uninhabitable.

Little did she know during the time she worked there that a time capsule was tucked into a hole inside the granite stone on the southwest corner.

Last year city councilors voted to spend $50,000 to start fixing up the chapel, whose future use is not cast in stone. Some city officials want to see it turned into a museum, meeting space and a point of reference from which visitors may learn about other historical sites in the city, including Pine Grove Cemetery. The cemetery is across the street from the chapel.

Masonry Unlimited owners Eric and Nate Timmins and their crew have been working on the chapel several weeks, removing and restoring the structural stone buttresses, which carry the roof load.

Eric Timmins said Monday at the site that the workers recently removed the cornerstone as part of their work, and when they went to put it back, they discovered the 4-by-6-inch copper box in a hollowed-out hole after cleaning mortar off the top of it.

“It was soldered closed,” he said.

They knew right away what it was, as they have removed such time capsules from cornerstones before. Typically, Eric Timmins said, they find an old beer bottle in a wall when working on buildings.

“Old masons used to drink. They used to drink right on the job, so lots of times we’ll see old beer bottles or cigarette packs with the date on them,” he said.

This was different, and they knew city officials would want to see what was in the copper box, so they contacted City Engineer Greg Brown.

Inside the time capsule

Brown retrieved the box and took it to City Hall, where the contents were laid out on a desk in a locked office.

The pages of the Morning Sentinel and the building contract were folded to fit into the box. A story in a Morning Sentinel dated Aug. 7, 1907, bears the headline “Will Construct a Mortuary Chapel; Cemetery Committee is Given Permission; Cost of the Building not to Exceed $5,000.”

The story describes a city government meeting held the evening before — Aug. 6, 1907 — at which officials approved the building of the chapel.

“The building will be of stone in Gothic design, and of one story,” the story said. “It will be used for funerals whenever needed, as in the case of bodies being brought here from other places or where there is not sufficient room for services at the homes of relatives or friends.”

Lovely explained that many years ago, when someone died, the family laid the body out on the dining room table and the funeral typically was held at the home.

The two-page building contract in the time capsule, dated Sept. 13, 1907, said the chapel builder was The Proctor & Bowie Co., and the architect was the William M. Butterfield Co.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The Pine Grove Cemetery chapel in Waterville is undergoing renovations both interior and exterior.

Staff photo by David Leaming

  


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