What's In This Mysterious Safe At Union Terminal?

Nov 1, 2016

Here's a bit of a mystery for you now. Journalists on a behind-the-scenes tour last week traipsed to a far corner on the lowest level of Union Terminal, past the boilers and chillers. They were there to see the building's new electrical system, part of the $212 million renovation currently underway.

But something else drew their attention.

The safe appears to have been made by MacNeale and Urban Safe Works before it moved from Cincinnati to Hamilton.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

In the middle of the room sat a rusty old safe.

What was it doing there? Where had it come from?

And most importantly, what was in it?

No one knew.

After some research and half a dozen emails, WVXU's Tana Weingartner met up with Content Specialist Nick Massa and Assistant Chief Engineer Gary Hays to find some answers.

GH: We had found the safe back in the blueprint room back in the engineering tunnel. We were collecting blueprints for the construction crew of Turner. It was buried underneath of them. We didn't even know it was there until we started moving the blueprints around.

The Union News Co. operated food and merchandise stores in railroad stations around the country.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

TW: It says "The Union News Co." across the top. What do we know about that company?

NM: They were a company that operated shops and print sales in railroad stations around the country. In Union Terminal they ran pretty much everything other than the two clothing stores and the Newsreel Theater.

TW: What do we know about the maker of the safe?

NM: MacNeale and Urban was a safe manufacturer in the region. I believe they were the first safe manufacturer in Hamilton. They started in Cincinnati under a different name and then they operated until 1903.

TW: Do you have any guess at how old the safe is?

NM: I'm guessing the safe is probably from the 1880s or 1890s. There were a couple of railroad stations that were built during that period and it probably came from one of them and was moved here in 1933.

No one knows the combination so, for now, the safe remains sealed.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

TW: Is it still locked?

NM: It is locked.

TW: Has anybody opened it?

NM: Not that I'm aware of. The knob shows some signs that somebody tried to force it. So, obviously, whatever is in there is still in there.

TW: So you don't know what's in there?

NM: I do not.

TW: What if I asked you to guess?

NM: Probably a lot of really dull paperwork if there's anything at all.

TW: This is a museum that we're in and you've moved all the artifacts out. What did you think when you got the email that this thing was here and I wanted to ask you about it?

NM: Well, first I wondered where it was hiding because there had been a walk-through to try to find things like this and we thought we had everything. But this building has lots of nooks and crannies. My next thought was 'what's in it?' It's probably been sitting around since the 1970s and been pushed from room to room, so who knows.

TW: What are you going to do with it?

NM: It'll go into storage, I'm sure, with the rest of the building's artifacts and we'll see if we can get it open some day.

There you have it, a mysterious, forgotten safe. Possibly empty, but maybe not. We want to know what YOU think is in the safe. Let us know in the comments below or on social media.

What do you think is inside? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU