First Lutheran Church treasure chest opened after a century 

A large group of onlookers gathered this morning at downtown’s First Lutheran Church, 1300 N. Robinson, to unearth a chest buried in the church’s basement 100 years ago today. Gov. Mary Fallin and Mayor Mick Cornett were among the dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony.

Fallin assisted in the opening of the 6-foot-long, 3-foot-wide chest.

The crowd reacted with “ooh”s and “aah”s as the “Century Chest” was opened and its items displayed. Some of the more notable contents included:

  • an antique telephone patented in 1891,
  • a pair of shiny leather shoes retailing in 1913 for $5,
  • a map of Oklahoma City
  • several documents detailing city plans
  • and sealed letters addressed to the current generation.

(Shannon Cornman)

“What a remarkable insight the people of this church had at the time to be able to put all these different things into this wonderful treasure chest,” Fallin said.

Karen Rogers, a church member whose family worked for phone companies during the early 1900s. was particularly intrigued in the vintage phone.

“It is a neat thing to see a phone of that era,” Rogers said, a smartphone in her hand, “especially having these kind of phones now.”

Fallin and Cornett were given the opportunity to catch up on the news from 1913. Each selected a century-old newspaper from the chest to read aloud.

“I assume that they will complain there’s not enough parking in Bricktown,” quipped Cornett. “We’re still working on it.”

Vintage telephone (Shannon Cornman)

The “Century Chest” was the brainchild of Virginia Sohlberg, whose great-granddaughter, Virginia Eason Weinmann, spoke today. The project was to be a fundraiser to aid the church in purchasing a new organ, according to Rev. Jerry Peterson, First Lutheran Church’s senior pastor.

The 1913 congregation had preserved the artifacts in airtight, waterproof containers.

The chest was buried under 12 inches of concrete slab, said Peter Plank, co-owner of the OKC-based Pinion Design & Contracting, the firm that uncovered the chest.

“The only thing we have left is to fill the hole,” he said.

The church partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society to ensure the time capsule was removed by experts, and that all the enclosed items were handled properly. Its complete contents will be preserved and exhibited at the Oklahoma History Center later this year.

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