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Century Chest opening draws crowd in Oklahoma City

The chest had been entombed in the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City's basement for 100 years.
by Matt Patterson Modified: April 22, 2013 at 10:04 pm •  Published: April 23, 2013

As the patent leather shoes were removed from their box at the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City on Monday, members of the assembled crowd let out a collective gasp.

The ladies' shoes were part of the contents of the Century Chest, which for 100 years had been encased in a concrete tomb in the church's basement. In 1913, the church sold space in the chest to raise money for a pipe organ still in use today.

The shoes still had a glossy shine, as did the metallic 1913 telephone. A blue women's hat with a red ribbon looked as though it had just been purchased.

“This is more than we could have hoped for,” Oklahoma History Center research director Chad Williams said. “I was expecting some things to be damaged, but everything looks in excellent condition.”

Getting the chest out of the basement was no picnic. Pinion Design and Contracting cut out the chest from under a 12-inch slab of concrete, removing two chunks that weighed 600 pounds apiece. An engine hoist was used to get the chest out of its tomb. The job took 11 hours.

“Just to see the way everything is preserved is fantastic,” said Peter Plank, who assisted in the chest's removal.

“We volunteered to do this a year ago, and to see all the items laid out here is amazing. The only thing we have to do now is fill the hole.”

Gov. Mary Fallin and Mayor Mick Cornett read remarks from their predecessors, Gov. Lee Cruce and Mayor Whit Grant, that were given in 1913 when the chest was buried. Cornett noted the references to women's suffrage in Grant's letter and how he would likely be amazed the state is governed by a woman 100 years later.

‘Great success'

First Lutheran's stewardship ended with its opening, and the chest and its contents were turned over to the Oklahoma History Center.

Church members had taken pledges over the last century to make sure the chest was opened on April 22, 2013.

The duty had been passed down from generations of members in some cases.

“It's been a great success,” First Lutheran pastor Jerry Peterson said.

Stories of the Ages

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by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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