Time capsule found at site of former Alpena Catholic Central High School
ALPENA — A discovery excited workers tearing apart the outer walls of the former Catholic Central High School campus in north Alpena last week.
An oxidized metal box, tucked inside a cement cornerstone, is a time capsule, placed when the school was built in 1950, developer Bruce Dietz believes.
The box isn’t locked, but Dietz hasn’t looked inside.
“It’s a community thing,” Dietz said. “It’s got more significance to the community than to me personally. I don’t want to ruin it.”
The developer began demolishing the building a week ago, preparing to remove it to make room for a single-story office building Dietz plans to lease to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
When the new building is finished, in about a year, the local DHHS offices will be moved from their current location in a county-owned building behind the Alpena County Courthouse Annex. Local DHHS services have outgrown that office space, according to John Keller, Alpena DHHS director.
The old high school’s gym, at one time the East Campus Youth and Family Center, will become the new home for the Alpena Boys and Girls Club after renovations.
The demolition of the old high school has generated much interest, with several dozen cars a day pulling into a nearby lot to watch the progress.
“I tell people, you better make it quick, because it’s coming down,” Keller said.
Demolition should take about three weeks, according to Dietz.
One-time students stop by regularly to watch demolition or snap photos, sometimes pausing to share stories about learning under the watchful eye of the nuns who taught classes at the school.
The developer has given glass blocks, pulled from the rubble outside the building, to former students to take home as momentos.
According to a reunion website for the former high school, the building housed 285 students when it opened for the first time during the 1950-1951 school year. The high school building was later used as the east campus for Alpena Community College.
Dietz hopes some former students or others with ties to the school’s history will be present when the time capsule is opened. Plans for opening the box are still in the works.
Though he hasn’t looked inside the metal time capsule, Dietz speculated it might contain religious items, a photo of the principal in 1950, or a newspaper.
The cornerstone was damaged during removal. Dietz hopes he can find someone to mend it so it can be preserved for the future.
Keller suggested placing another time capsule in the cornerstone of the new building, capturing a snapshot of the present to be discovered by Alpenaites of the future.
His three siblings and a friend, all of whom attended the high school, are excited about the find, Keller said.
“This is local history,” Keller said. “This is phenomenal.”