July 20, 1969 was an important day for the City of Sparks as officials dedicated the newly-built Sparks City Hall. It was also a momentous day for the entire nation when astronauts took their first steps on the moon.
Recently, Assistant Sparks City Clerk Julie Torres found a gem hiding in what is known as the “vault” at City Hall. Buried beneath some old pictures, Torres found a reel-to-reel audio tape dated July 20, 1969 and decided to have it converted to a digital file.
“We were so excited when we got the digitized file back,” said Torres. “On it was audio of the entire Sparks City Hall Cornerstone Dedication Ceremony where former Mayor Charles R. Stone referenced what was going on in ‘outer space’ when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was fascinating and very much like being transported back in time.”
Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel decided to blend a section of the audio file and old photographs of the dedication ceremony into a short video that was presented during the Sparks City Council meeting on Monday. And, while listening to the audio tape in its entirety, discovered yet another gem.
“City officials kept referring to the ‘cornerstone’ in which they had placed memorial items,” Duewel said. “I looked at the historical images and realized the “cornerstone” was actually a time capsule that had been placed behind the Sparks City Hall dedication plaque.”
The audio tape revealed 29 items that had been placed in the cornerstone capsule including the program and invitation for the ceremony, a copy of the 1936 original deed of the land sale where city hall was built, the pen used by Mayor Stone to sign the construction contract, a desk-sized City of Sparks flag, a small enameled metal City of Sparks seal and copies of newspapers of the era.
“We were thrilled and thought about planning a ceremony to open the time-capsule,” Duewel said. “But we first wanted to make sure the “cornerstone” capsule was actually behind the dedication plaque and that the contents were intact.”
Maintenance workers sawed through concrete to see if the time-capsule existed, and indeed it did. Nestled behind the dedication plaque was a copper box, that once opened, revealed severely waterlogged contents.
“I’m not going to say that we were not extremely disappointed to find the damaged mementos inside,” said Mayor Ron Smith. “But the great news is that we found a fiftyyear old time-capsule that we would have never known existed had we not found the audio tape. It was a fun mystery to solve.”
City officials are still hopeful that some of the contents can be restored and have reached out to the Nevada state archivist for advice. “In the meantime, we plan to fill the box with items from this era to be opened July 20, 2069, fifty years from now,” Smith said. “And, this time we’ll make sure to seal the items properly to prevent any water damage.”