A time capsule buried in 1887 in the cornerstone of the now demolished Central Junior High School building in Ogden will be opened at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Utah State Archives and Records Service office at 346 S Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City.
Due to community response from the Ogden area, there will likely be another event in Ogden where its contents will be shared, said Alan Barnett, local government archivist with the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service, though the date of that event has not yet been set.
Barnett is eager to spread the word about the event with the Ogden community because he knows that people the area are particularly interested in its history.
“Every October is archives month, so we try to do some events to highlight ... the history the archives contain,” Barnett said. “And this year ... our theme was about the history of education, and so we thought, ‘Well, this is the perfect opportunity to bring out this time capsule and open it up and see what’s in it — and see what it tells us about the history of education in Utah.’”
Several years ago, Ogden School District contacted the state archives to determine which of the district’s old records were worth preserving, Barnett said.
One item at the district offices was an old metal box, and district staff said the state archives should take it because it had items from the Central school building once located at the northeast corner of 25th Street and Adams.
The box was found and cut open when the building was torn down in the early 1960s, but no one has really gone through it, Barnett said. It’s in the same state now that it was when it was handed over to the state archives.
The building originally housed a school called Ogden Academy. It was built by the Congregationalist church in 1887 as part of a missionary effort to convert Mormon children to Protestant beliefs — and away from the Mormon practice of polygamy — through education, Barnett said.
Schools were built by several Protestant denominations in Utah for the same reason, Barnett said, and they tended to be superior to the other schools in the state because they were staffed with teachers trained in education schools in the East. Because of the opportunity for better schooling, Mormon parents did send their children to the Protestant schools despite the schools’ mission.
The academy had functioned for years before the building was built, so school children likely participated in filling the time capsule, Barnett said.
Several years later, the Congregationalist church sold the school to Ogden School District, and it became Ogden High School.
After some years functioning as a high school, an addition was made to the building, and it became Central Junior High, which is how the building is best known. It functioned as a junior high until sometime in the 1940s, Barnett said.
The building was rented out to Weber State, then called Weber College, because it was near the college’s campus. Weber used the building until the late 1950s, when it moved to its current campus on the East bench.
The school district decided to demolish the building in 1959, leading to the discovery of the time capsule.
“We thought it would be a fun thing for the public to be able participate in,” Barnett said, describing the decision to open the box publicly, rather than staff going through it first. “... It’s sort of a message from the past because that’s the whole point of a time capsule: ‘We’re going to put some things in here that will tell the people of the future about us.’ It’s sort of fun to open up that message.”