Alfred University News

1908 South Hall time capsule opened

Laurie Lounsberry Meehan, Alfred University archivist, holds the open time capsule
Laurie Lounsberry Meehan, Alfred University archivist, holds the open time capsule

An Alfred University building crew paid special attention to a lower corner of South Hall at the start of the recent demolition of the 113-year-old building. Embedded in the southwest cornerstone of the building was a metal time capsule containing memorabilia from July 1908, the month in which construction of the new Alfred Grammar School began.


An Alfred University building crew paid special attention to a lower corner of South Hall at the start of the recent demolition of the 113-year-old building. Embedded in the southwest cornerstone of the building was a metal time capsule containing memorabilia from July 1908, the month in which construction of the new Alfred Grammar School began. The crew freed the cornerstone with chisels; the tin box was extracted from its concrete sarcophagus.

Monday evening, Oct. 18, the time capsule was opened on the second floor of the Alfred Village Hall, during a meeting of the Baker’s Bridge Historical Association, the historical society that collects and records the ongoing story of Alfred.

Laurie Lounsberry Meehan, university archivist for Alfred University, presented an overview of South Hall’s evolution from an elegantly designed local grammar school to an academic hub of Alfred University housing classrooms for business administration, social sciences and education.

And then she opened the capsule. Inside, the materials were dry and well-preserved. They included three newspapers (The Alfred Sun and two editions of the Elmira Star Gazette); a letter signed by W.H. Bassett, clerk of the Alfred school board; and two photographs of the grammar school before and after the 1908 fire that destroyed the prior school building and made construction of the new school necessary.

The damaged grammar school building was eventually rebuilt; it is now Alfred University’s Kanakadea Hall. 

Nearly 100 people jammed the second floor of the Village Hall to watch the opening of the time capsule. In addition to Meehan, speakers included Jim Ninos, president of the Baker’s Bridge Historical Association, Alfred Mayor Becky Prophet, and Beth Ann Dobie, Alfred University Provost.

Meehan thanks Alfred University staff for their attention in saving the time capsule in addition to their rescue of an historic school desk from the attic of South Hall, as well as a decorative terra cotta roof finial piece from the roof. She called the opening of the time capsule “an event for the community … to have closure for a building that meant so much to the local families and local history since 1908…. Together these items leave a physical trace for future generations and can be viewed in the university archives in Herrick Library.”

Welcoming people to the ceremony Prophet noted the Alfred village hall, originally “Firemen’s Hall,” was built by volunteers.  “Volunteering and serving the greater good of both communities is a foundation of the both the Village of Alfred and Alfred University as we work together.”