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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Wailuku school peeks into past

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — On May 21, 1904, a crowd of 1,000 watched Maui sugar baron Henry P. Baldwin help seal a time capsule within the stone masonry of the new Wailuku Public School building, at the time hailed as the "crown jewel" of public schools in Hawai'i.

Wailuku Elementary School PTA President Dave Jorgensen removes coins, stamps, newspapers and documents from a 1904 time capsule.

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

One hundred years later, with much less fanfare, about five dozen people held their breath yesterday in the school cafeteria as the lid to the cast-iron time capsule was opened.

Inside were at least 13 U.S. and Hawaiian postage stamps, including one with a picture of King David Kalakaua that was stamped "Hawaiian Provisional Government" and dated 1895. There were eight Hawaiian and U.S. coins, including a Hawai'i silver dollar from 1883.

Dave Jorgensen, PTA president of Wailuku Elementary, as the school is now called, said he had no idea whether the items were valuable and had not been contacted by any collectors.

The time capsule also contained an 1866 copy of the English-language newspaper the Daily Hawaiian Herald and other publications of the day, and several government and business documents.

Getting the time capsule out of the 100-year-old building was not an easy task.

Although a concrete plaque inscribed "May 21, 1904" in a front-porch pillar hinted at the capsule's location, no records were available to pinpoint where it had been laid. Several attempts earlier this year to drill or saw around the plaque were fruitless.

Jorgensen said the retrieval effort was fraught with difficulty because the 100-year-old building, designed by noted Hawai'i architects Charles W. Dickey and Edgar Allen Poe Newcomb, is listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places, and any work on it must be approved by the State Historic Preservation Division.

Officials at the structural engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates in Honolulu heard about the predicament. Jorgensen said the company, at its own expense, dispatched staff to fly to Maui with a ground-penetrating radar unit. Once the capsule's exact location was determined, Concrete Coring of Hawai'i, also donating its services, drilled into the concrete for six hours Saturday before the time capsule was finally dislodged.

The school, with about 940 students in kindergarten through Grade 5, is planning a centennial celebration May 22. Jorgensen said a new time capsule will be prepared but this time it will be buried in the ground.

Students have suggested including such items as Gameboys, Pokemon cards and backpacks.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.