Old State House Statues Come Down Tomorrow, Possibly Revealing Time Capsule

–John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A century-old city legend may become a reality Sunday. The gold lion and silver unicorn statues are being taken down from Boston’s Old State House for repairs, and a storied time capsule hidden inside the lion may finally be revealed.

As a part of a restoration project courtesy of The Bostonian Society, the statues will be lowered from the facade of the Freedom Trail landmark for some basic maintenance. Once lowered, the statues will be sent on Monday morning to Woburn’s Skylight Studios, Inc. for both restoration and inspection by conservator Robert Shure. Using a camera inserted through the hollow bottoms of the statues, the longstanding rumors of a time capsule in the lion may be proven to be true. Or false.


“We’re confident that there’s a time capsule in the lion statue,’’ said Elizabeth Roscio, the Library and Archives Manager of The Bostonian Society. Archived facsimiles of letters from Samuel D. Rogers — a carpenter living in Boston at the time of the 1901 installation of the statues — detail the papers, photographs and autographs he deposited in the capsule. For Roscio and the Bostonian Society, that’s all the confirmation they could need.

Freedom Trail historians aren’t as convinced.

Sam Jones, creative director of the Freedom Trail Foundation, considers the stories of a capsule to be a children’s game of telephone: attributing the regular rumors of a time capsule to the “many shiny animals above the Freedom Trail.’’ Suzanne Taylor, the Freedom Trial Foundation’s executive director, wasn’t even aware of the capsule rumors. Taylor, however, is hopeful that they’re true.

Originally built onto the Old State House in 1713, the lion and unicorn were torn down by revolutionaries in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the building. Founded in 1881, The Bostonian Society was formed to preserve the Old State House and eventually reinstalled the lion and unicorn onto the oldest surviving public building in Boston. The current statues were placed onto the building in 1901 with, or without, a time capsule hidden within.

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