Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

Originally buried by Boy Scouts, this 90-year-old time capsule is about to be unearthed

A silhouetted person walks towards a large cross in a foggy, forested area with a ground covered in leaves.
The Mount Davidson Cross during early morning fog | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

In 1933, a Boy Scout troop buried a time capsule at the base of the Armenian cross on Mt. Davidson—and after 90 years, the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California is digging it up.

“When you place a time capsule, it’s a sign that you know something is going to outlive you,” said Mesrop Ash, pastor of St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco. “That’s a powerful statement.” 

The ceremony, scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will include the unearthing as well as remarks and prayers by San Francisco community leaders—and the placement of a new time capsule.

“We want to allow for a bit of anticipation, so we’re not sharing the contents,” said Kim Bardakian, board member of the Mt. Davidson Cross Armenian Council. “But it will have things related to San Francisco.” 

Archival photo of Easter Eve Services | Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

The original time capsule was buried during the first-ever sunrise Easter service at the cross on April 1, 1933. That cross—and three other temporary ones made of wood—were all burned down and later replaced by a cross made of concrete.

Since 1997, the cross has been under the stewardship of San Francisco’s Armenian community, who bought the Christian symbol atop Mt. Davidson from the city. 

“It’s a real blessed opportunity to become part of something that’s woven into the fabric of the city,” Ash said. The cross also serves as a memorial to the 1915 Armenian genocide, according to Bardakian. 

But the cross has not been without controversy. In 1991, several organizations sued the city for maintaining a religious symbol on public property—which eventually forced San Francisco to make a decision: either tear down the cross or sell it. 

The Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California purchased the cross in 1997 after the Board of Supervisors and voters approved the sale.  

The cross is lit up two times a year—Easter and April 24, which is the Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide. 

“The cross provides hope,” said Ash. “And symbolizes our gratitude for being welcomed to San Francisco.”