Construction workers found two snapshots of history under a statue in downtown Lexington on Friday.
While disassembling the John C. Breckinridge statue near the old courthouse, the workers found two well-preserved newspapers from 1887, the year the statue was dedicated.
One paper was an issue of the Lexington Daily Press dated Oct. 30, 1887. The other was a copy of the Lexington Transcript from Nov. 12 of the same year.
Lexington historic preservation officer Bettie Kerr said the placement of the papers under the statue was no mistake.
"They wanted people to know about this day," she said. "This was their version of a time capsule."
Information from the Lexington Public Library's archives confirmed Kerr's statement. A story in the Lexington Transcript from Nov. 13, 1887, documented the papers' place in history.
The writer (name unknown, the story has no byline) says that while the statue was being assembled Nov. 12, a W.D. Bryant suggested that a copy of the paper be placed under the statue. A Transcript writer had the Nov. 12 issue in his pocket.
The issue had a full account of the execution of anarchists. The writer proclaimed that "the Breckinridge monument sits down upon anarchy."
The article also mentioned how the papers were going to stand the test of time. They were placed in a small gap between the stone pedestal and the statue. The perimeter of the gap was sealed with lead, essentially weatherproofing it.
"The lead really provided a watertight seal that preserved the papers," Kerr said. "When we found them, they were perfectly dry."
Kerr said the papers will be given to archivists at the University of Kentucky.
The Breckinridge statue will be moved 40 or 50 feet to the Main Street side of the park and turned to face the street. It is being moved to make way for a pavilion for downtown events.
Breckinridge was a U.S. senator, then vice president under James Buchanan; he later served as a Confederate general. He was born in Fayette County and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Before reassembling the statue, officials might make a time capsule of their own by placing an issue of the Lexington Herald-Leader under the statue, Kerr said.
"We have a very limited opportunity here," she said "We will definitely consider it."