Photographer steals 135-year-old church cornerstone that may contain historic time capsule
Some historians and local pastors believe the cornerstone at the former St. Peter Lutheran Church on the east side contained a time capsule with valuable historic artifacts dating back to 1878.
But no one knows for sure because photographer Sean Doerr, a graduate of the College for Creative Studies, stole the cornerstone with a friend, both of whom boasted about the theft on Facebook. Doerr has rejected requests to have it reviewed by experts and declined to be interviewed for this story.
“Happy birthday to myself!” Doerr, the photographer for “Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins,” wrote on Facebook.
The author of that book, Dan Austin, parted ways with Doerr nearly two years ago. The pair also operated www.buildingsofdetroit.com. When Austin left, he launched the popular site, www.historicdetroit.org.
In the late 19th century, it was common for new churches to store copper or lead time capsules in cornerstones. They often contained photographs, Bibles, currency, newspapers, jewelry and other items to give a snapshot of the time.
“We are taking this issue very seriously, as this is a form of illegal scrapping,” said Melanie A. Markowicz, president of Preservation Detroit, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s unique history. “The cornerstone is a very important part of our shared heritage, and as such it should be studied and properly documented so that all Detroit residents may benefit from the knowledge garnered.”
The church on Pierce Street and Chene changed hands several times before becoming the Universal Hagar’s Spiritual Church, a predominantly black congregation founded in Detroit by George Willie Hurley , according to our friends at Detroiturbex.com.
Like many things in Detroit, ownership of the church has been a mystery.
It was demolished last month as part an ambitious, public-private project to level eight blocks of decay near the Eastern Market.
Demolition crews at the time said they did not know the cornerstone was stolen.
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