Organizers planning a centennial celebration for Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall discovered just one day before the event on Thursday that a secret was hidden in the building: a time capsule buried more than 100 years ago.
“Yesterday, the architect who worked on the renovations eight years ago walked in with a ton of old newspapers,” said Kay Mathew, resource development manager at Madison Park Development Corporation, the hall’s owner. “And that’s how we learned about the capsule.”
Officials kept its contents a mystery until they opened it Thursday night at a gala held in the hall’s historic ballroom.
A thrill of excitement swept the crowd as the capsule’s existence was announced by Jeanne Pinado, executive director of the development corporation.
Then, stirring up clouds that contained decades of dust, Pinado pulled a variety of papers from the narrow, tarnished copper box.
Pinado said its contents included documents of the Ancient Order of Hibernians; a certificate for $100,000 worth of stock in the Hibernian Building Association; a book on early aviation; a postcard from the Harriman Aeromobile Company, an aviation firm that had offices in the Financial District; and three 1913 newspapers, including the May 30 issue of the Boston American, with a story on the establishment of the hall.
There were oohs and ahhs from the crowd as the contents were revealed.
The opening of the capsule was part of an evening that included the presentation of awards to members of Roxbury’s arts community and performances by Irish step dancers, an Irish string quartet, a steel drum band, and a James Brown impersonator.
The capsule was concealed inside a brick wall, behind the building’s cornerstone, until a construction crew began the process of removing it on Thursday morning.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, for which the hall is named, was founded in May 1836 and is the oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization in North America, according to the group’s website.
“The building was built to serve as a community and social center for the Irish immigrants coming to Boston in the early 1900s,” Mathew said.
The historic ballroom on the third floor of hall’s four-story building on Dudley Street has been the site of a diverse array cultural performances over the past century, though it sat empty for years until the development corporation bought it in 2000, according to its website.
“When it was built 100 years ago, the main purpose was to serve as a social center where bands and performers would play in the Irish tradition,” Mathew said.
While it once was dedicated purely to the Hibernians, today the hall serves as office space for businesses and non-profit organizations, in addition to the third-floor performance space.