A 1920s time capsule extracted from a cornerstone Friday will be displayed at the Morgan Gardner Bulkeley Historical Center when it formally opens next month.
The project to transform a former book room at Bulkeley High School into a center honoring the institution's past received $10,000 recently from a 1963 graduate celebrating his 50th reunion this year. The gift funded several upgrades, including the school crest featured prominently on new flooring.
But a committee of Bulkeley staff and alumni is still seeking donations to buy display cases for school memorabilia and treasures -- especially the time capsule that a masonry worker removed from the renovated M.D. Fox School building on Maple Avenue, the original home of Bulkeley High.
A page from a long-ago Bulkeley yearbook tipped off school administrators to the existence of a capsule hidden during Bulkeley's first year of construction.
On Nov. 20, 1924, months after crews broke ground, "the cornerstone was laid" at the South End school on the corner of Maple and Benton Street, the yearbook reads. "Among the articles and records of interest that were placed in a box under this cornerstone were the names and pictures of the Building Commission," a city map and American coins from that year.
Bulkeley cost $2 million to build at the time and opened in September 1926 to roughly 1,000 students, according to the yearbook that notes the 115-member, inaugural class of 1927.
Bulkeley High moved from Maple to Wethersfield Avenue in the mid-1970s.
About a week ago, the manager for Hartford's school construction program ordered some careful exploring for the time capsule on the site of the $54.4 million M.D. Fox renovation that is almost finished, said Craig Ayotte, superintendent for general contractor Downes Construction.
"We were directed to do some investigative work to find out if it was there," explained Sal Indomenico, vice president of Connecticut Mason Contractors.
Ayotte and others soon focused on the towering stone pillars that flank the school's red entrance. The foot of one pillar is a smooth block with "1924" etched into it. They picked that one.
"This was a first-shot deal," Ayotte said.
"We removed the stone," Indomenico said, "and found the copper box."
Esconced in a square hiding place made especially for it, the box was eight inches high, a foot long and covered in a patina of mottled turquoise blue.
But workers put the stone back in place and waited until 8 a.m. Friday, when a few Bulkeley staffers came to retrieve it under a drizzling rain. An employee for Connecticut Mason did the honors of prying back the stone and handing over the capsule.
Bulkeley staff won't peruse its contents until Aug. 21, said Lou Frasca, dean of students for Bulkeley's Upper School. The first unveiling will be to Bulkeley teachers and guests at the high school's professional development day, he said.
The historical center's official opening is set for Sept. 27, the day before the 50th- and 55th-year reunions for Bulkeley's classes of 1963 and 1958.
Frasca, a 1988 graduate, hopes news of the time capsule will help fundraising. The committee has collected $10,500 of a $50,000 goal for the center, which will include canvas portraits of past principals, a table for formal meetings, and a wall history of Morgan Gardner Bulkeley, who was a city mayor, state governor, U.S. senator and president of Aetna before his death in 1922.
An electronic kiosk where visitors can digitally search all of Bulkeley's yearbooks is also planned, organizers said.
Then there are a dozen display cases sought for trophies and mementos spanning 87 years of school history, such as the first varsity letter that the Bulkeley Athletic Association ever awarded -- a "B" to founding Principal Gustave Feingold in 1926 -- and a special place for the copper box.
People may send contributions to the Bulkeley High School Historical Center, in care of Lou Frasca, at 300 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford, CT 06114. Online donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/3bkm3w.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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