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Published February 9, 2015

Buried History: Raleigh’s Hidden Time Capsules

While members of the newer generation post photos and comments on social media sites like Facebook, older folks honored their traditions and memories by burying time capsules. Several such capsules are buried in Raleigh. You may be walking past one every day and never even realize it. When will these capsules be unearthed? What do they contain?

The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), established in 1990, has headquarters at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to the ITCS, “Properly prepared time capsules preserve the salient features of history and can serve as valuable reminders of one generation for another. Time capsules give individuals, families and organizations an independent voice to the future.”


Raleigh’s Oldest Civil War Time Capsule

Buried History-- Raleigh's Hidden Time Capsules - Civil WarThe oldest known capsule in Raleigh was buried in 1894. It was placed in the cornerstone of the North Carolina State Confederate Monument. The capsule contains maps, Confederate currency, newspapers, a song book, and personal belongings from General Robert E. Lee.

Created to honor North Carolina citizens who served in the Civil War, the monument was unveiled to the public on May 20, 1895, with the capsule buried inside.


Raleigh’s Bicentennial Time Capsule

Raleigh bicentennial time capsuleOver 80 years later, in 1976, the state of North Carolina buried another time capsule in downtown Raleigh. Commemorating the U.S. Bicentennial, the capsule is located next to the North Carolina Museum of History, across the street from the State Legislative Building.

A plaque marks the spot where the capsule is buried, and a replica of the Liberty Bell sits nearby. The bicentennial capsule contains items produced in North Carolina. According to, “the capsule, containing a Bic pen, Salem cigarettes, cellophane tape, razor blades, L’eggs pantyhose, Goody’s headache powder, and other objects, is to be opened at the nation’s tricentennial.”

RELATED: Abandoned Cemetery for Emancipated Slaves Hidden in Cameron Village.

First Presbyterian Church’s Bicentennial Capsule

Buried History-- Raleigh's Hidden Time Capsules - churchA second bicentennial time capsule is also located in downtown Raleigh–at the historic First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Salisbury and Morgan Streets. Situated at the base of the church sign, the capsule lies along the sidewalk on Salisbury Street.


Raleigh’s 200th Anniversary Capsule

Raleigh bicentennial time capsule - Clay oakAfter celebrating the nation’s bicentennial, the city of Raleigh marked its own 200th anniversary on December 31, 1992.

Following a parade, a time capsule was buried in the center of downtown’s Nash Square.

A wooden acorn, fashioned from the fallen “Henry Clay” oak tree, was among the items buried. The tree stood at the intersection of North Blount and East North Streets from around the time of the city’s founding until 1991.


North Hills’ Cardinal Theatre Time Capsule

Buried History-- Raleigh's Hidden Time Capsules - North HillsLocal legend states that there was a time capsule buried in front of the Cardinal Theatre, formerly located at North Hills. The capsule was placed under the pavement on June 8, 1967, to commemorate the opening of the theater. The site is currently occupied by a restaurant, but the capsule is scheduled to be opened in 2017.


Wake Technical Community College’s Time Capsule

Buried History-- Raleigh's Hidden Time Capsules - Wake TechMore recently, students at Wake Tech Community College buried a time capsule at the school’s Northern Wake campus, located in north Raleigh, in 2013. Wake Tech President Dr. Stephen Scott placed several historical items into a time capsule to be buried at the site of the new building.

Student Government Association President Katie Layton also placed items in the time capsule, including a flashdrive with photos of current students. She and other members of the SGA made a pledge to return in 50 years when the capsule is opened. An engraved marker at the site specifies October 16th, 2063, as the date to unearth the capsule.

RELATED: Death Isn’t Orderly: Nature Takes Oberlin Cemetery.

Creating Your Own Time Capsule

Finally, here are some tips to help you create your own time capsule: Instead of including original newspaper articles, which can turn yellow and deteriorate, photocopy them onto archival paper. Black and white photographs last longer; use quality acid-free paper if you want to preserve color photos.

Freeze-dried foods are acceptable, but avoid canned foods, as they may explode due to trapped gases. Tape and adhesives can stain other items, so avoid using them as well.

Zip-lock-type plastic bags should be used to separate individual items. Acid-free tissue can be used to wrap items. Coins and metal objects should be placed in tarnish-reducing material. Do not use plastic packing items such as bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts; these are not meant for long-term use.

While you wait to see one of Raleigh’s capsules unearthed, you can create a time capsule for your family or business. Either way, you are contributing to our local history!

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  • Ginny Gillikin


  • I have a journalism degree and an English minor from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. I am a staff writer for I enjoy music, books, photography, hiking and travel. Previous jobs include positions at Deep South Entertainment in Raleigh and ReverbNation in Durham. All my articles.

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