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Demolition reveals 91-year-old time capsule in Williston

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WILLISTON -- Contractors demolishing the former law enforcement center in Williston discovered a time capsule dating nearly a century while removing the building’s original cornerstone.

The cornerstone was laid on June 15, 1929, as part of the construction of Good Samaritan Hospital. The hospital replaced Wittenberg Hospital, which was established in 1912. Crews from National Civil carefully removed the cornerstone during the demolition, thinking it may be of historic value.

Workers found a compartment on the underside that contained a sealed metal box holding historical documents, including an invitation to the cornerstone’s laying ceremony. The invitation came from the Good Samaritan’s building committee chairman and the city’s postmaster.

Underneath, four pages folded together tell the story of how Good Samaritan came to be, and its need to replace Wittenberg Hospital, which was struggling to serve the community’s needs.

“The hospital was begun and for many years has done its work in a frame building, to which two cottages were added, for nurses home,” the typewritten document reads. “In 1916 a campaign was put on for a new hospital. While the preliminary campaign in Nov. of that year was very successful, the financial conditions the following year, ensuing upon our entrance into the war, and the following economic conditions following the war precluded any further effort to build a more adequate building. In 1927, the Association decided to renew the campaign for a new building, the hospital having long since outgrown its quarters.”

The capsule also contained amended articles of incorporation for The Good Samaritan Hospital, dated April 18, 1929, which were typed over the amended articles of incorporation for Wittenberg Hospital, dated March 3, 1926. The box also included the abstract of title of the hospital, telling a history of the property dating to 1894.
Another time capsule that had been included in a hospital addition built in 1955 also was found but not until crews had brought down the wall, unintentionally damaging most of the materials.

City Administrator David Tuan said the time capsule contents were turned over to the city attorney for review, to see if there were documents the city needed for its records or that should be returned to the property owner. None of the documents had any legal value.

“It’s pretty fascinating,” Tuan said. “It plays a lot of similarities with what’s going on in the community right now, with the need for health care, growth of the town, limited funds. It was very interesting to know that history with the hospital before Mercy (Hospital) came along.”


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