The Chicago Tribune (http://bit.ly/2Gb0G1r) reported that construction workers who were excavating a portion of the Anshe Emet Synagogue’s parking lot as part of the construction of a 25,000 square foot building for the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School unearthed a 3,000 pound, locked cannonball safe two weeks ago.
The safe is badly rusted and numerous efforts by construction workers, locksmiths and safe crackers to open the safe have so far proven to be fruitless, reported CBS News (https://cbsloc.al/2Ga0JdO).
Experts estimate that the safe, whose walls are at least 18 inches thick, was made sometime around 1906. Cannonball safes were specifically made to be difficult to break into, according to Rebecca Graff, an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College.
Graff, who specializes in 19th and 20th century archeology in the Chicago area, said that the safe was probably owned by a bank or a business and that historic maps and directories could yield some clues about who owned the safe and how it got to its present location.
Anshe Emet, a Conservative synagogue located near the shores of Lake Erie in the Lakeview section on Chicago’s north side, has been at its current site since 1929.
Twitter user @mikraas posted a decades old map of the site and tweeted that a glass manufacturer, shipping company and a car park had formerly inhabited the spot where the synagogue now stands.
The safe has become the topic of conversation at the construction site.
“It there gold in there?” asked construction worker Russ Moen. “Is there nothing in there? You know the old Al Capone theory and talking about getting Geraldo out there.”
Former talk show host Geraldo Rivera made news in 1986 when he opened a secret vault constructed by gangster and mob boss Al Capone on live television in 1986, hoping to find riches or possibly even dead bodies. The vault was accessed through hidden tunnels at the Lexington Hotel, Capone’s base of operations from 1928 until 1931, and is located seven miles south of Anshe Emet.
While Capone’s vault was found to contain nothing of value, speculation is still swirling around the Anshe Emet safe. While the synagogue had previously released video of a locksmith attempting to drill into the safe with the caption “who can crack this mystery safe?” a statement released this week said that the safe’s contents will remain unknown, at least for now, according to NBC News (http://bit.ly/2YObQR9).
“We are thrilled to have uncovered a potentially exciting piece of Chicago history. We are exploring the opportunities that this discovery presents but we have no plans to open the safe in the near future,” read the statement.
No one at Anshe Emet or the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School was immediately available to comment on the matter.