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Time capsule found inside Old State House lion statue

Dina Rudick/Globe staff

An iconic statue of a lion atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston was hoisted down from its rooftop perch for restoration.

By Kiera Blessing Globe correspondent 

It’s confirmed, Boston. A time capsule has been found in the head of the lion statue that has been sitting atop the Old State House for more than a century.

Sculptor Robert Shure of Skylight Studios in Woburn, who is in charge of restoring the lion and unicorn statues from the Old State House, found the time capsule Monday, said Heather Leet, spokeswoman for the Bostonian Society. The statues were taken down Sunday for restoration.

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Rumors swirled last week about the possibility of the long-forgotten time capsule, which was reported in a Globe story from 1901.

“We [the Bostonian Society] didn’t know about the Globe article until several years ago,” Leet said.

A descendant of one of the statues’ original sculptors found a letter that revealed the existence of the capsule and listed its contents. It was after the society saw the letter that it did research that turned up the 113-year-old Globe story.

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On Monday, Shure used a fiber optic camera to detect the capsule, which is in a sealed copper box about the size of a shoe box and secured to the sculpture with copper straps, Leet said. According to the Globe story, the capsule contains photographs, autographs, and sealed letters from politicians and prominent Bostonians of the time, along with old newspaper clippings.

Leet said Shure hopes to find a way to retrieve the time capsule with minimal damage to the lion by the end of the week. It is hoped that by next week, the Bostonian Society can have a small ceremony at the Woburn sculpture studio to extract the box.

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“We’re hoping it didn’t get wet,” Leet said. An “archivist will be on hand to see the condition of the items — papers could be deteriorating, that sort of thing. . . . We don’t want the newspapers to turn to dust.”

The items found in the capsule will be added to the society’s collection and displayed this fall in the Old State House museum, Leet said. The exact dates that the capsule items will go on display depends on their condition and how long they take to process.

Before the restored statues are returned to the building, Leet said, a new time capsule will be placed inside for 22d-century Boston. Inside will be facsimiles of the 1901 contents and a photo of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, she said, but the society is asking the public for more ideas.

Ideas can be sent to the Bostonian Society via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail, and should use the hashtag #LionAndUnicorn.


Kiera Blessing can be reached at kiera.blessing@globe.com.