Dayton VA celebrates 150th anniversary with time capsule plans

When people in the future wonder about the Dayton VA Medical Center’s 150th anniversary, they’ll see a piece of today.

The Dayton VA celebrated its long history with a sesquicentennial time capsule ceremony Thursday, marking plans to place the container inside the front porch of the Col. Harris building, constructed in 1903 and named after a former Union Army soldier, before Christmas.

“It will really give them a sense of how long we’ve been here,” said Dayton VA historian Tessa Kalman, who called the campus designated a National Historic Landmark one of the “landmark institutions” in the region.

The capsule will hold satellite photos of the sprawling campus, anniversary lapel pins, patches, a bible, commemorative coins, money, photos of campus landmarks, and Thursday’s edition of the Dayton Daily News – among other artifacts — when discoverers someday open it. People in the future will decide when to open it, Kalman said.

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Some of the items, such as bibles and coins, were meant to carry on the tradition of three time capsules buried decades ago on the campus but have never been opened, she said.

Those artifacts are under the cornerstone of the Protestant Chapel, the Soldiers Monument standing in the adjacent Dayton National Cemetery, and in a wall in Building 115, a 1930s-era administration building, according to VA spokesman Raymond Hoy.

To get to the buried artifacts would damage the historic buildings, VA officials said.

But what’s inside is known: The chapel capsule, for example, buried sometime around 1870, holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a bible and hymnal, old photos and a miniature flag, among other pieces of history.

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The Dayton VA campus was chosen as the VA’s future national history center, but it’s still years away from completion while fund-raising and planning to refurbish two 19th- century buildings continues. The front porch of the building constructed in 1903 and named after a former Union Army soldier and Cincinnati mayor is being refurbished.

President Abraham Lincoln ordered the creation of three soldiers homes for Civil War veterans and in 1867 the Central Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers opened in West Dayton. It was commonly called the Dayton Soldiers Home, Kalman said.

The sprawling campus at one time housed thousands of former soldiers who were cared for or learned trades to help make the transition to civilian life. Today, the Dayton VA and four community clinics medically treat more than 40,000 patients each year.

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