On Friday, October 13, I took a stairwell down two levels below the U.S. Capitol basement, entered a locked storage area, climbed a ladder into the air shaft below the House Extension and carefully shimmied through the dark and dusty bowels of the building.
Rounding a corner, Architect of the Capitol (AOC) employees pointed their flashlights towards an enormous concrete slab adjacent to a brick wall of the air shaft. At the very top of the opening, delicate pink fabric with hand-stitching, was peeking from the concrete. Its location made it difficult to reach and hard to see.
Fabric can be seen sticking out of the corner concrete.
How and why did we end up here?
Tim Campbell, an AOC electrician, had been in the shaft looking for possible routes to run new electric lines to offices upstairs. "When I saw it, I thought, what in the world?" His boss, Kristy Long, Deputy Superintendent of the Capitol Building, agrees. "It is certainly intriguing. There doesn’t seem to be a good explanation for, what looks like a dress, to be in the concrete."
Close-up of removed fabric.
The AOC traces its history back to 1793, and it is an organization that has seen many interesting things in more than 200 years as the stewards of the buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill. Construction sites on campus often yield historic artifacts, including bottles, newspapers and tools. Finding a dress or feminine fabric is new for the agency.
Crouched in the air shaft, Long began scraping at the slab. Small pieces fell away revealing a single, dark hair intertwined in the fabric and embedded in the concrete. Working together, we quickly surrounded the area with a white paper, pulled the hair from crumbling material and secured it in an envelope.
View of single dark hair that was removed.
Is it simply fabric tossed into an active construction site and covered in concrete or is something more sinister underlying this discovery? Right now, we’re not sure. But be sure to follow our blog as we continue to research this mystery and provide updates!