SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Memories of days when Shepherd University was a college, when the campus was less than a third its size today, were recalled Saturday morning with the unsealing of a copper box from the cornerstone of a recently razed campus landmark.
Sara Cree Hall housed the university’s physical education department, swimming pool and offices and was torn down earlier this year. Its cornerstone was laid Oct. 23, 1951, by Masons of Mt. Nebo Lodge No. 91 A.F. & A.M. at 121 E. German St., in Shepherdstown. The stone was a gift from the class of 1950, raised in $3 donations.
Masons lay cornerstones at churches, schools and public buildings as proof of a building’s integrity and strength of its foundation and, as one Masonic speaker said Saturday, “to invoke the blessing of the Grand Architect of the Universe.”
Cornerstones are often time capsules, containing items from the period they were laid.
A second time capsule in a copper box opened Saturday was found in a closet at Sara Cree Hall during its demolition. It was laid for the building of Boteler Hall, a male residence hall named for Alexander Boteler, a founder of Shepherd University. Boteler Hall opened in 1952 and was razed in 1990 when asbestos was discovered in the building.
A large audience watched while Masonic Grand Master Richard Nuhfer and Christine Toms, coordinator of archives and special collections at Shepherd, removed more than 40 items from the Sara Cree time capsule.
The more documents pulled out, the more a picture began to appear of what life was like on the Shepherd campus 66 years ago.
A Bible was the first item removed, followed by a Shepherd course brochure. There was an alumni directory; Phi Sigma Chi sorority photo and member list in 1951; Alpha Sigma Tau Collegiate Alumnae catalog; photo of the 1951 graduating class and faculty members; membership lists of the Shepherdstown Women’s Club and Shepherdstown Men’s Club; the university’s 80th anniversary celebration program; student and faculty directory; the student handbook, which prompted one audience member to comment on “how thin it is”; a West Virginia highway map; West Virginia State Magazine; constitution of Shepherd’s Student Christian Association; official program of the 27th annual homecoming football game; and a photo of the school’s 1949 archery team.
Copies of The Picket, the student newspaper, plus local weekly and daily newspapers including the Hagerstown Morning Herald and the Martinsburg Journal were in both boxes.
Similar items came from the Boteler Hall capsule.
Everything pulled from the boxes will be catalogued and displayed or archived under climate-controlled conditions, Toms said.
MaryAnn Morgan, an 85-year-old Shepherdstown resident and widow of Lee Morgan, the late Shepherdstown fire chief, was part of the program.
“I’m thankful I was able to see this being opened today,” she said. “I saw the stone being put in place.”
Morgan is a 1953 graduate of Shepherd and member of Phi Sigma Chi, to which she still belongs.
“For 64 years Sara Cree was a member of the Shepherdstown and university communities,” said Shepherd alumna Monica Lingenfelter, executive vice president for the Shepherd University Foundation and long-time friend of Cree’s.
“Sara came to Shepherd in 1940 to head the physical education department,” she said. “She developed it and created the women’s collegiate athletic program.”
The physical education building was renamed in Cree’s honor in 1975.
Cree lived for years in a small cottage on Church Street. She was 97 when she died in 2004.
The site of what was once Sara Cree Hall is now a campus parking lot.