The ongoing $5.5-million restoration of Mt. Vernon's Washington Monument is the historical gift that keeps on giving.
Today, workers excavating around the monument's base discovered its 200-year-old cornerstone—a large granite cube with a marble lid that, according to historical accounts, may contain paper items and coinage. The items are thought to have been buried during a cornerstone-laying ceremony on July 4, 1815, which attracted national attention because the 180-foot marble column topped with a statue of George Washington was the first American monument dedicated to the president. The monument was completed in 1829. The opening of the cornerstone's time capsule will take place on Wednesday, February 18 at 1 p.m. at the monument.
This is the second time capsule unearthed during the restoration process. The first was discovered in October 2014 and is dated to 1915, when Baltimoreans installed it as part of celebrations to mark the monument's centennial. That capsule currently can be seen at The Walters Art Museum and will be opened in May, at which point its contents will be exhibited at the nearby Maryland Historical Society.
In a press release from Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, which is overseeing the restoration work, the conservancy's Restoration Committee chairman Lance Humphries stated: "Few buildings have two time capsules. These items speak to the antiquity and symbolic importance of the monument in the history of our country."
The obelisk, which has been closed to the public since 2010, is getting spiffed up for its 200th birthday celebration in July, when it will be reopened to the public followed by a family-friendly, old-fashioned country fair in Mt. Vernon Place.
Though it all sounds highfalutin, the cornerstone was found via appropriately humbling circumstances: According to the press release "the stone was discovered while . . . digging a pit for a sewage tank off the northeast corner of the building."
Never change, Monument City.