CHARLESTON — A copper time capsule contained in the cornerstone of the old Bishop England High School on Calhoun Street was opened May 20 in a ceremony at the school’s new Daniel Island home, eight decades and a world away from when the object was first put in its resting place.
Michael and William Bolchoz recovered the 1921 cornerstone in December 2000 just before the building’s demolition.
The cornerstone at first appeared to be a cement block. The stone was taken to E.J. McCarthy and Sons Monument Co. to be cleaned and prepared for display at the school. An employee there discovered an indentation on the stone, and upon further inspection it was determined that it was made of red granite and contained a time capsule.
The capsule was sealed with solder and weighed more than two pounds.
No documentation has been found on the time capsule. A passage from the 1940 Bishop England High School Yearbook, The Epic, states, “This corner stone was laid by Right Reverend William T. Russell, Bishop of Charleston, October 12, 1921, W.G. Harding being President, R.A. Cooper, Governor, and J.P. Grace, Mayor of Charleston.
“This property, 203 Calhoun Street, was given by its owner, Mrs. Thomas F. Ryan of New York City, to the diocese of Charleston to be used as a home for the High School. The original building was torn down and ground was broken for the new building on July 5, 1921.”
At the opening ceremony, following a welcoming from Principal David Held, an explanation of the project was given by Assistant Principal Bill Runey. Msgr. Robert J. Kelly, chaplain, gave brief remarks on the history of the school.
Bishop Robert J. Baker, retired Bishop David B. Thompson, and Mary Giles, diocesan archivist, carefully opened the capsule to unveil its contents.
Inside was a statement concerning the laying of the cornerstone. Bishop Thompson read the text of the document, which was written by Bishop Russell. He recounted how Bishop England High School was formed by the inspiration of Father Joseph O’Brien, along with the generosity of Mrs. Ryan, who donated the land for the building.
The statement also told of donations from Catholics in Charleston who financed the new building. The committee who organized the fund drive were also listed.
Two of the current staff members at Bishop England had relatives’ names on the document. James Joseph Condon was the grandfather of Alma Runey, a graduate and teacher at the school, and George F. Musladin was the great grandfather of Rosie Ryan, a graduate and guidance secretary.
Various coins were discovered, including a 1912 Liberty Head dime, a 1915 Buffalo Nickel, a 1917 Standing Liberty quarter, a 1918 Lincoln Head Wheat penny.
The box contained three newspapers, whose condition were of concern to Giles: The News and Courier from Oct. 11, 1921, the Evening Post newspaper from Oct. 10, 1921, and the Charleston American newspaper from Oct. 11, 1921.
The papers are being sent to the State Archives preservation lab for treatment, while the rest of the contents of the capsule are now on display inside Bishop England. Also unveiled at the Monday gathering were new cases in the school lobby with old pictures, yearbooks, varsity letters, and registers.
The event was organized by the Calhoun Committee, a group formed in December 2002 to preserve and make visible the heritage of Bishop England High School. The committee meets periodically to determine where and how artifacts could be displayed on the new campus.