25 Year Old Library Time Capsule Opened Today

Cedar Rapids Public Library time capsule from 1985, opened June 29, 2010.

The time capsule at the now former Cedar Rapids Public Library was uncovered and opened this morning (Tuesday, June 29) after being buried since 1985, when the library building was built. Evidently it took several years of trying to pass a super-majority vote by citizens to fund the new library, which replaced the original Carnegie Library location at 3rd Avenue and 5th Street SE, now a part of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The capsule was buried about five feet down, under a triangular planter near the main entrance. The contents, which were all paper materials (brochures, books, newspapers, etc.), were put in a cardboard box, wrapped in a plastic garbage bag, and placed in a baby casket. The casket had begun deteriorating and clearly had filled with water during the flood. All the contents were damp with several areas of mold growth, but in surprisingly good shape for sitting wet for the past two years.

The materials were laid out to look through and view by those attending before being taken to be frozen to halt anymore mold growth until they can be sorted and restored. Contents included a White & Yellow Pages phone book (obviously much more used back in ’85), brochures and literature about most of the local non-profit organizations and cultural venues, some local post cards, and the most interesting documents – reports and plans for major civic projects underway at the time. There was a report on the new airport terminal – which opened up a year later in 1986 – with some fantastic concept renderings of the inside and the front. Unfortunately I could not open to see the inside due to its current condition.

About ten to fifteen people showed up for the time capsule opening, about half from the local news media. Ted [unsure of last name] who was the architect for the 1985 library building was there at the beginning. I was able to talk with him for a few minutes, which was very interesting. He told me about his former firm, Brown Healy Stone & Sauer, which later merged with Howard R Green Co in 2001, after he had already retired.

The opening of the time capsule was the last remnant of the library at this building and site. It functioned as a library for only 23 years from 1985 to 2008, and will now be transformed into an office facility for TrueNorth. While the development of a new central library across from Green Square Park is exciting and ultimately, probably the best decision for the Library’s future, the existing building will always be appreciated for its role as our central library for the past quarter-century. The reinvention of the building into something new, serving a different role, is similar to the story of the old Carnegie Library, which now houses the gift shop, activity rooms, and offices for the art museum. By keeping the building and reusing it, even with additions and aesthetic alterations, its contextual, cultural, and new historical value is preserved for future generations.

The photo above is from the Cedar Rapids Public Library’ Facebook album. See more time capsule photos here.


  1. Was the time capsule originally scheduled to be uncovered at this time? Or is it just being done now because the building is being taken over by TrueNorth?

  2. Brady Dorman

    June 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    It was intended to be opened after 50 years in 2034.

  3. Great photos, I enjoyed the one that showed the proposal for the airport terminal.

    One interesting thing to note is that Cedar Rapids had a difficult time getting citizens to vote for the original 1905 library as well. The $75,000 from Andrew Carnegie is what got the ball rolling.

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