Time capsules buried beneath former Great Barrington church


GREAT BARRINGTON — It was the town's own version of "Back To The Future."

About 100 residents and interested individuals gathered around the "flying church" at 198 Main St. on Saturday to witness the burial of 100 personal time capsules under the foundation of the former United Methodist Church.

The 19th century church is being renovated by owner/builder Paul Joffe of New Marlborough, who plans to renovate the building and turn it into a combination restaurant, retail space and residential units.

But part of the renovation process is raising the building about 12 feet off the ground to replace the crumbling foundation. This has led passersby to dub the structure "the flying church" because it looks like it's floating in the air.

Several weeks ago, Joffe announced he would make a total of 100 six-inch-long time capsules available to the public for free. People were asked to put personal or historical items into the capsules.

On Saturday, several people attended the burial event — many in costume in honor of Halloween. A prize was awarded to the best adult costume and the best children's costume, he said.

"This turned out better than I expected," Joffe said. "This could only happen in Great Barrington."

The capsules were carefully prepared for their journey. Joffe removed the air and replaced it with argon gas from a tank. The argon, he said, will prevent the contents of the capsule from oxidizing. He also added a desiccant, not unlike the material used to preserve electronic devices, also to prevent decay.

Joffe tightly closed the capsules with an air-powered wrench.

The capsules all were placed in a hole that will be under the entrance to the building. State Rep. William "Smitty' Pignatelli, local businesspeople Jane Iredale and Todd Wilkerson each threw ceremonial shovels full of dirt onto the vault hole.

People buried personal items, family heirlooms and items of popular culture. Two residents brought a bottle of bourbon brewed in the Berkshires, Joffe said.

The retail space/restaurant to be open by 2016-17. There will be a plaque at the entrance of the structure indicating the presence of the time capsules. But Joffe said that he had no listed date for the time capsules to be unearthed.

"I'm hoping they'll be completely forgotten and not found by anyone for 1,000 years," he said.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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