When 8-year-old Theodore Hartridge placed a nickel in the cornerstone of the 1902 Duval County Courthouse, he probably thought he would never see it again.


But when the next courthouse was built in 1957, an older Theodore was back to add a new nickel to that building’s cornerstone.

Now another Hartridge will be there as a huge granite-swathed time capsule is dedicated at 4 p.m. Thursday in the latest Duval County Courthouse at 501 W. Adams St., with both of her late grandfather’s (he died in 1972) nickels in attendance.

After almost two years of planning by the Jacksonville Bar Association and local judges, a time capsule is covered in the same granite as used in the building’s construction. It will be filled with lists of elected officials and bar association members, documents and mementos about the life and times of Duval County. And Susan Hartridge Morgan will be there with more descendants to put in another nickel as well as family history and photographs.

“We all feel incredibly honored and blessed to be part of it. It was actually part of a family history we were not aware of and it was fun to find that out and do some more research,” Hartridge said. “Our family has a long history in the city so it is an incredible privilege to carry that on and all of us have made a commitment to do a better job of preserving that history.”

Circuit Judge Lance Day said they won’t know all of what will go into the new time capsule, set to be opened in 50 years, until Thursday’s ceremony. Something from the 1886, 1902 and 1958 courthouse cornerstones will go in, as well as mementos from many city offices and letters from city officials. Members of the public can leave a bit of themselves in the time capsule like a letter to a grandchild.

“We suggest you put the child’s name on the outside with the child’s birthday and last known address. Put it in a sealed envelope, maybe put a Forever stamp on it. Maybe that will help,” Day said. “We will put it in the time capsule and when it is opened up, we hope the future custodians of the time capsule will attempt to locate those people, just like we did.”

The new time capsule was delivered to the 800,000-square-foot building last weekend. Designed to look like an attorney’s courtroom podium, it was done by Moyer Marble and Tile, the same company that did the stone work in the $350 million building. Its flanks include plaques that will be unveiled during Thursday’s ceremony. Displayed next to it will be items that will go into it as well as some of what came out of the earlier courthouse cornerstones, Duval County Judge Charles Cofer said.

“The earlier courthouses — 1886, 1902 and 1958 — each of those had a cornerstone laid where objects were placed into them,” Cofer said. “The contents of the 1886 cornerstone survived the Great Fire of 1901 and were put into the 1902 courthouse. Those were removed in 1956 and put into the cornerstone for the Bay Street courthouse in 1957.”

Some of those mementos include coins from the 1902 cornerstone like a 1884 U.S. Morgan Silver Dollar, an 1852 Canadian penny and an 1855 French 10 centimes piece. Coins that were in the cornerstone of the courthouse when it burned in the city’s epic 1901 downtown fire include a scorched 1882 Victoria Canadian quarter and an 1806 British farthing. Periodicals of the past include a metal tube with a program from the 1957 Duval County Courthouse cornerstone-laying ceremony and a copy of The Florida Times-Union and Citizen for Sunday, May 5, 1901 (two days after the Great Fire).

The new time capsule won’t contain a lot of its predecessor’s past, those historical items saved for public display instead of being interred again. As for new items, judges and city officials have been asked to prepare items, to be laid out first for the public to view before going into the capsule.

“We will still be receiving items during the ceremony from different organizations and we will have different things loaded in it,” Cofer said. “... We will load it after the ceremony and have it sealed. But it will remain displayed in the main atrium of the courthouse.”

“A lot of the public officials are writing to their counterparts in the future, and others are writing to their loved ones, like their children or grandchildren,” Day added.

Circuit Judge David Gooding said time capsules give us a window into the past and a chance to carry on into the future.

“The last time capsule provided us with an insight,” he said. “... History gives us perspective. If we don’t know history we don’t have a good perspective of where we are now. I am hoping that a glimpse of our past will give a perspective to future generations.”

Incidentally, a 1902 nickel like the one the young Hartridge put in the cornerstone could be worth up to $135, according to coin experts, while a 1958 buffalo nickel he put in later would be worth only about $1 in perfect shape.

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549