Second Time Capsule Found in Granite Base That Once Held Statue of Robert E. Lee

A second presumed time capsule was found Monday in the pedestal that previously served as the base for a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam announced.

Northam tweeted pictures of the box being removed from the pedestal and said it is being studied and will not be opened today.

The newly uncovered box may be the time capsule that several news accounts from the time say was buried when the pedestal was constructed in 1887. The stories say the box was buried with dozens of items such as artifacts of the Confederacy, and historians have speculated that it may also contain a photograph depicting President Abraham Lincoln.

The Lee statue atop the pedestal was removed in September, and Northam’s administration decided earlier this month to remove the pedestal as well, as it has now been covered in graffiti, and would return ownership of the piece of land the pedestal and statue used to be on back to the city of Richmond.

On December 17, the crew working to remove the pedestal found a box that many assumed to be the 1887 time capsule. After it was opened last week, however, conservators found simply a few books, a silver coin and some assorted papers, leaving them to assume the box was placed in the pedestal by one or multiple people who built it, and the time capsule described in historical accounts may still be in the pedestal somewhere.

Northam did not announce when the box would be opened or what condition anything inside the box may be in.

A second box, thought to possibly be an 1887 time capsule described in historical accounts, has been found at the site of a pedestal that once held a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. Above, a pile of rubble is all that remains after the removal of the pedestal.
Steve Helber/Associated Press

The search for the 1887 time capsule had resumed earlier Monday.

Devon Henry, the contractor whose company was overseeing the pedestal removal, said the box was found inside a granite enclosure basically at ground level, surrounded by fill and other construction material. Workers pulled off the top of the granite enclosure to find the box, which appeared to be made of copper, sitting in water, Henry said.

The box was then covered in bubble wrap and transported by vehicle from the site for further study, he said.

The Lee statue, which depicted the general atop a horse, was erected on the soaring pedestal in 1890 in the former capital of the Confederacy. Its removal in September came more than a year after Northam ordered it in the wake of protests that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The statue was one of five enormous Confederate tributes along Monument Avenue, and the only one that belonged to the state. The four city-owned statues were taken down in 2020, but the Lee statue’s removal was blocked by two lawsuits until a ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia in September cleared the way for it to be dismantled.

Crews searched for the time capsule then, digging and removing massive stones, but were unable to locate it.

Henry said the box was found Monday in the northeast corner of the pedestal, about 4 feet (1.2 meters) below the area initially searched.

Northam’s administration has said it will be stored until « next steps » have been determined.

Finalizing the removal work at the site will likely take another week, Henry said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Crews have been searching for a time capsule thought to have been buried in a statue pedestal in Richmond, Virginia. Above, construction workers erect scaffolding around a pedestal as they prepare to dismantle it on December 6.
Eze Amos/Getty Images