Charles Duncan McIver Cornerstone Ceremony Freemasons McIver Building McIver Memorial Building time capsule

The Cornerstone Time Capsules

This is part one of a three-part blog regarding campus time capsules. A time capsule contains commemorative material for access at a future date. There are four known time capsules in the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

When Brick Dormitory burned to the ground on the night of January 4, 1904, on the grounds of the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG), it was decided not to replace it with another residence hall.  Instead, a new building was constructed on the same site, designated solely for classrooms. By the time that the cornerstone was laid for the new structure on May 25, 1908, the president and founder of the college, Charles Duncan McIver had died and the building was named in his honor. 

McIver Memorial Building

The cornerstone ceremony was held with great pomp and circumstance, beginning with a parade through campus. Over 500 students, faculty, alumnae, and guests made their way from the Students’ Building to the McIver Memorial Building. The crowd first sang “America” and then said a prayer. The ceremony was presided over by the local Freemasons (Masons), an organization dating back to stonemason fraternities of the fourteenth century. It was not unusual for Masons to participate in cornerstone rituals and this event was especially poignant as McIver himself was a very active member of the Winston Lodge. The Grand Treasurer of the Masonic Lodge solemnly placed the time capsule in the cornerstone. It contained books, a copy of the Bible, the Constitution of North Carolina, college programs and publications from 1908, current North Carolina newspapers, and McIver’s family tree, as well as material related to the Masonic Order and the Presbyterian Church.

The cornerstone ceremony, 1908 

The McIver Memorial Building was demolished in 1956 and eventually replaced by a new modern building, also named for Charles Duncan McIver. The little copper box that held the original time capsule was opened during the 1957 Founder’s Day festivities, only to find that it not been sealed properly and much of the original material was ruined.

Opening the time capsule, 1957

There was a general feeling that another time capsule should be incorporated into the new McIver Building. The material for time capsule was assembled by school librarian Charles Adams and a small committee. They were able to keep the bottom of the original copper box and arranged for a new top to be made by a local roofer. The committee made sure that the seams of the box were soldered so it would remain air-tight. Along with the original 1908 material that could be salvaged, contemporary items were also sealed within the box and placed into the cornerstone.

The new McIver Building, 1959

On October 5, 1959, during the Founder’s Day ceremony, the  cornerstone from the original structure was incorporated into the new McIver Building. Students, faculty, alumnae, city officials, and several people who attended the 1908 ceremony attended the ceremony, which focused on the history of the school. Unlike the 1908 cornerstone ceremony, the chancellor presided over the festivities – but the Masons did send a representative. The cornerstone time capsule will be opened once again when the new McIver building is replaced.

Chancellor Blackwell sealing the cornerstone, 1959

Article by Kathelene McCarty Smith

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