Hidden treasure and ancient secret societies often go hand in hand.
For examples, see the plots of “National Treasure” and “The DaVinci Code.”
And now the local Freemasons of Fern Hill Lodge No. 80 have cracked open their own secret treasure.
The contents of a 95-year-old time capsule — buried inside a cornerstone at the Royal A. Gove Masonic temple, 3736 S. Sheridan Ave. in Tacoma — have seen the light of day.
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On Jan 18, nearly 50 members gathered for the opening of the copper capsule, buried June 17, 1922.
Inside were three local Tacoma newspapers — The Tacoma Times, The Tacoma Ledger and The News Tribune — along with a Masonic ledger and letters from the master mason and Washington’s ninth governor, Louis Hart.
“It was pretty thrilling actually,” said Perry Smith, the building manager and a Mason for 32 years. “I felt like Geraldo Rivera when he opened up Al Capone’s vault. They thought they were going to find jewels and hidden treasure and turns out it was a bust.”
There was no million-dollar bank bond or priceless jewels.
Or so it seems — the Mason have yet to open one sealed envelope.
Because of some water damage and 95 years of sitting in a cement block, the items from the capsule are very fragile. The newspapers weren’t opened past the front page to avoid damage.
And the envelope remains a mystery.
“I don’t have any idea what’s in it,” Smith said. “In a perfect world, I open it would be a bank certificate for a million dollars.
“But I doubt that.”
Smith plans to take the contents to an expert, someone who can properly examine them.
Laying cornerstones and time capsules is part of the many Masonic traditions. Smith said there are cornerstones at Tacoma’s Roosevelt and Fern Hill elementary schools, where a time capsule might be buried.
Digging them out might be the only way to find out. Because of changes with the Masonic order and its lodges combining and merging, information about where the capsules are buried has been lost.
As for the one at his temple, Smith said, members knew of the capsule, but didn’t know until recently the contract for their building allowed them to retrieve it.
Then, after 95 years of waiting — and four hours with a contractor — the Masons finally carved out the cornerstone.
For now, there are no plans to bury a time capsule from 2017.
But Smith is hopeful.
“I would love to do that in our building,” he said. “But I’m gonna put something in so the next guy gets a gold mine. Someone cooler than an old coin and some old newspapers.
“Maybe some Boeing stock,” he chuckled.