On Wednesday, workers improving the sidewalk outside the new Artspace building on S. Main Street were surprised when a sheet of concrete caved into a short tunnel, revealing the top of a rusted safe attached to the adjoining Scofield building, just below the new Budget Music & Video location at number 11.
Buried underground, the safe had been accessible from the basement, which John Bauer of Budget explained used to be the site of a pool hall until the mid-1960s. Bauer's father had once owned a barber shop at the basement just below Artmain at number 13, so he is familiar with the neighborhood.
The safe itself was no surprise to the building's owners. "It's been under there for who knows how long," said Walter Piehl, a local artist, professor at Minot State University, and co-owner of the Scofield building along with his wife, Becky, and Beth and Keith Kjelson.
In this photo taken by Beth Kjelson, Artspace superintendent Conrad Hoag guides a rusty safe to a flatbed truck at 11 S. Main Street, Wednesday afternoon. At right is Walter Piehl, one of the owners of the building it was found attached to.
Piehl described it as "a big old kind of safe you see in the old-time movies," with two steel jackets with cement in between them. Sturdily built as it was, its owners had never been able to open the thing, not given the combination when purchasing the building some 30 years ago.
"It's been kind of a mystery to us," he said, at most an interesting conversation piece.
Piehl explained that the safe also has signs of forced entry, with a soldered, circular scar left over from where the lock had been removed and later repaired. He is unsure whether it was done as part of a robbery or if someone had simply lost the combination.
When the tunnel gave way and exposed the hefty metal box on Wednesday, they were finally presented with a unique opportunity to remove it. Bringing in a small crane, it was hoisted out of its hole, placed on the bed of Piehl's truck and taken to Schock's Safe and Lock Service, where it awaits a grand reopening.
"Let's hope there's piles of cash" inside, Piehl half-joked. Whatever is inside, though, he feels "it's going to be fun."