Treasure discovered in underground vault downtown

Artifacts excavated from Cowford Chophouse construction at old Bostwick building

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of artifacts were excavated from the Cowford Chophouse construction in downtown Jacksonville and now, the pieces of history are being preserved.

During construction at the old Bostwick building, workers discovered an underground vault that had many unique, historical items. So they took them over to the experts at the Museum of Science and History across the St. Johns River.

“Initially, when we saw the safety deposit boxes in there, we had thoughts that we’re going to find treasure,” Jacques Klempf, owner of Cowford Chophouse.

News4Jax got a sneak peek at some of the treasure recovered from the gutted century-old building, including jewelry, watching and even a medal from the United Kingdom representing Queen Mary’s 1911 coronation.

"Whether it stemmed (from) its time as a bank, law office or architectural firm there is documentation connected to each of those time periods. It really gives us a unique window into the past here in Jacksonville,” said Alyssa Porter, a curator at MOSH.

A majority of the items recovered were documents like books and checks, even the birth certificates from the Bostwick family, the original building owners, including Charles Bostwick Jr.

Porter said it's a tedious process, recovering and restoring the items that may have been worn by the elements. But many of the items are in good condition.

"That's one of the beautiful things about this collection, we fully expected when the collection came to us, that majority of it would not be salvageable. These were kept in a very pristine place they were in the dark, they were in a cool environment,” Porter said.

Porter said all the hard work is worth it -- bringing history to life.

"It was a lot of 'oohh' and 'ahhh-ing,' sharing and calling people over when you found something that was so incredibly special,” Porter said.

They even found an address stamp drawer used in the early 1900s.

“There are things like insurance documents from different individuals. There's also handbooks and how-tos. This is a packet from the Chamber of Commerce on how to establish your own flower shop,” Porter said.

But there is still a lot of work to do, including go through boxes filled with items not yet archived.

Before anything is put on display for the new collection at MOSH, it will take years for them to go through and restore the thousands of items they found underground at the old Bostwick building.