Debris Cleanup Crews Help Unearth Time Capsule


The Vida McKenzie Community Center, located along the McKenzie River near Vida in Lane County, has long served as a local spot for family gatherings and other celebrations. It has also been used as a meeting location for community groups including the Lions, McKenzie River Guides, neighborhood watch, and garden clubs.

The main center, garage, and storage building were all burned in the Holiday Farm Fire last September, with only the concrete portions still standing. As the building was being demolished last Friday, Debris Management Task Force crews helped to uncover a time capsule from 1949, something long rumored to be under the building’s cornerstone.

Vida McKenzie Community Center Board President Walter Wilson reached out to Kevin Finch, the ODOT On-Scene Incident Commander for the Holiday Farm Fire area, to let him know that there may be a time capsule in the building’s structure and to see if it could be safely retrieved.

Finch and crews from AshBritt and K&E Constructors were more than willing to help in the hunt for this piece of history! Using a small excavator brought in specifically for the targeted digging, crews first began searching in the ground under the foundation, where the time capsule was rumored to be buried.

After finding nothing in the ground, Finch and the team assessed the building’s walls and – after extending the perimeter viewing area for the media and community members who were anxiously anticipating the time capsule discovery – began knocking down the wall to get access to the cornerstone.

“I can’t believe this, this is exciting,” Wilson said, barely able to contain his excitement when the time capsule was discovered. “I’m shaking, I’m so nervous about this.”

Inside the cornerstone was a glass bottle containing several historic documents relating to the center including a short history of the establishment and lists of the people who set it up and the original members of the McKenzie River Active Club.

For Finch and the crews involved in the retrieval, the effort was a welcome change from the daily, months-long effort to remove ash and debris from burned homes and businesses.

“This community group has something to rally around,” said Finch, “and now they can move forward with rebuilding and they’ve got something from 1949 they can reference.”

Like many others, Wilson and others on the Board found out that the center was underinsured. They began work on fundraising with an eye towards rebuilding and are looking to bring back their popular Christmas Bazaar this December. Wilson is eager to see the activity that the rebuilt center will bring.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the people that will come back again for their weddings and their birthdays and their family gatherings,” said Wilson.

Visit to find out more about the center and its 2021 Re-Build Campaign.

About Author

Tony Andersen is the strategic communications director for the statewide wildfire cleanup effort with the Debris Management Task Force, led by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

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