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October 26, 2011

Penn Avenue Time Capsule Unearthed

Penn Avenue Time Capsule Unearthed

Contractors make unexpected find at former school site

Kristin Harty Barkley
Cumberland Times-News
October 26, 2011

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County had 10 high schools and the school board’s annual budget was $1.12 million in February 1925 when officials buried a time capsule at the former Pennsylvania Avenue School.

What a difference almost 100 years make.

Today, after decades of consolidation and inflation, the school system has three high schools and an annual budget of more than $100 million.

Unearthed recently by contractors working on a housing development at the site, the time capsule — actually a weathered tin box about the size of a loaf of bread — contains newspapers, a Rotary Club handbook, the school board’s 1924 annual report and a handful of pennies dating from 1901 to 1920.

It was an unexpected find, said Bryan Lybum, vice president of business operations for Interfaith Housing Authority, in Frederick, the owner and manager of Cumberland Family Homes II, a 25-unit townhouse under construction on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We wanted to get it in the hands of the city so it would be preserved and dealt with appropriately,” said Lybum, who presented the capsule to Mayor Brian Grim and the Cumberland City Council Tuesday night.

“There’s some really interesting stuff. We didn’t read through everything and handle it too much because it’s ginger. It’s been in here since 1924 or ’25.”

Lybum said contractors were trying to save the cornerstone and dedication stone from the original Pennsylvania Avenue School when they stumbled upon the time capsule. The school was torn down last summer so that work on the housing development could begin.

The yellowing newspapers — a Cumberland Evening Times from Feb. 16, 1925, and a Cumberland Daily News from Feb. 17, 1925, — along with the other items paint a picture of Allegany County in a different era.

You could buy a Ford car battery for $16.50 at Frostburg Motor Co., for example, or a six-room house “on a paved street” in Cumberland for $6,300, a newspaper advertisement says.

Legendary cave explorer Floyd Collins had just been found dead after being stuck in a Kentucky cave for two weeks. “Collins Dead When Found,” an all-caps headline said.

White children and black children still attended separate schools. The former Frostburg Opera House was showing “The Woman Who Sinned.”

City officials plan to pass the time capsule along to Allegany County Public Schools so that items might be displayed.

The 10 high schools in 1925 were Allegany, Bruce, Barton, Central, Beall, Midland, Mount Savage, Flintstone, Oldtown and Frederick Street.

“It’s really cool,” Lybum said as he posed for a photograph with the mayor and council members Tuesday night.

“It really is,” Grim said. “It just makes the whole project more exciting.”

Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at kbarkley

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