After carefully disassembling the oldest building in downtown Reno, construction workers unearthed the granite Masonic Lodge No. 13 cornerstone first placed in the ground in 1872. Inside that cornerstone, Reno Lodge No. 13 Freemasons placed a small lead time capsule full of 19th-century treasures.
The Whitney Peak Hotel’s parent company, after several years attempting to save the Masonic Lodge/Mercantile building, plan to build a new long-stay hotel in place of the lodge and Old Reno Casino behind the current hotel. The hotel will be a 5-story building with 60 rooms. Construction will start soon.
At a time capsule reveal, Managing Partner Niki Gross told a crowd of about 150 people that the Freemasons would lay the new cornerstone. Gross said they would discuss ways to possible install a 2019 time capsule in the new cornerstone.
The new hotel’s lobby would pay homage to the Freemasons and the artifacts found inside the time capsule. Architects plan to build the hotel around items saved from the Masonic building, such as bricks, timber and doors.
All Masonic buildings have special cornerstones and many of them include time capsules. There is a special ceremony to placing the cornerstone and, if necessary, unearthing them in the future.
The construction workers from Group West and Penhall found the 1872 cornerstone in early February during the building’s disassembly. Freemasons in Reno knew about the cornerstone and Whitney Peak Hotel General Manager Eric Olson, who is also a Freemason, helped ensure its preservation.
Many of these time capsule items survived the last 147 years, though others were destroyed or damaged by water (lead boxes are not water tight). The time capsule was loaded with newspaper editions from the day of its placement, coinage and currency from around the world and Freemason artifacts. It also had personal items not originally included on the official list, such as a harmonica and arrowheads.
The paper items, such as the newspapers, suffered a lot of water damage, while the coins took on rust and collected debris from the other items. But Whitney Peak Hotel attempted to rescue what they could for a grand reveal.
On Valentine’s Day, Catherine Magee, archeologist and Nevada Historical Society President, helped take apart the time capsule and preserve the artifacts within.
Here’s the original list of time capsule items according to “Reno Lodge No. 13 F. & A.M. 1869-1969” history book.
- Set of Masonic studs
- Specimen of Horn Silver from Eberhardt mine
- Carson Dollar
- Names of Grand Officers, Grand Lodge of Nevada, F. & A.M.
- Names of Officers and members of Reno Lodge Number 13, F. & A.M.
- Proceedings of Grand Lodge of Nevada, F. & A.M. for 1872
- Names of State Officers of the State of Nevada
- Names of Washoe County Officers of that date
- Name of Building Contractor, Builder and Architect
- Copy of Nevada State Journal
- Copy of Reno Crescent
- Copy of Virginia Enterprise
- Copy of Virginia Chronicle
- Copy of Carson Register
- Copy of Carson Appeal
- Copy of Gold Hill News
- Copy of Sacramento Union
- Copy of San Francisco Bulletin
- Copy of San Francisco Examiner
- Copy of San Francisco Post
- Copy of San Francisco Chronicle
- English quarter shilling
- Fractional currency
- Foreign coins
- English Half Sovereign
- Set of sleeve buttons and studs
- Mexican Real, 1828
- Mexican dollar
- McCoy’s Masonic Manual
- San Francisco Dollar, 1872
- Silver Specimen
- Half and Quarter Gold Dollars
- Bylaws of Reno Lodge No. 13
- Piece of wood from Sutter’s Mill at Coloma, Calif.
- Specimen of quartz taken from the tail race of Sutter’s drill
- Copy of Masonic Mirror
- Names of Members of California Legislature, 1871-72
- Two three-cent pieces and several other American and foreign coins
- Constitution of the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Nevada
- Copy of the bylaws of Douglas Lodge No. 12, F. & A.M.
At an April 16 event, Mayor Hillary Schieve presided over an unveiling ceremony where current Freemasons spoke about the meaning of the cornerstone’s unearthing. Nathan Digangi, Worshipful Master of Reno Lodge 13, spoke about the importance of the find.
“This unveiling of such a significant part of our history presents a unique opportunity for our members and the community to learn more about the people who lived during that time,” he said. “After meditating over the singularity of this occasion, I am encouraged to remind you all to think about how the things you do today will last as long as the legacy of these artifacts and the story they reveal.
“As we develop a stronger identity for this much different, current next stage of Reno, it is important for perspective to know the people who have gone this way before us,” he continued. “Every time you cross the river and explore the great valleys of the Truckee Meadows, you are treading the paths of generations, including those who had the foresight to preserve these items for us today.”