Historic flag, letters discovered in Watertown basement

Flag, letters
Flag, letters(WWNY)
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 6:11 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A piece of history has been discovered after collecting dust in a downtown Watertown basement.

As head of maintenance for Jake Johnson Properties, Ed Davenport has had some interesting finds, but he tells us his latest takes the cake.

“I was pretty excited to find it,” he said.

What started as spring cleaning in the basement of the Key Bank building became a blast from the past when Davenport stumbled upon a flag and a pair of letters tucked away in a storage locker

“The actual flag that was flown over the Capitol,” said Davenport.

The letter, penned by deceased Congressman Robert C. McEwen, reveals the flag flew at the U.S. Capitol in 1969, the 100th anniversary of Watertown’s incorporation.

“I opened it up and I was reading it. I was just astonished that it was packed away I guess. I’m surprised that no one else has brought it to light,” said Davenport.

McEwen sent the flag to the city in 1971 to celebrate the completion of the National Bank of New York, which is now the Key Bank building. That’s where it flew. Although National Bank is no more, its old flag may return thanks to the building’s owner.

“I know he wants to keep it and maybe at some point he wants to fly it again,” said Davenport.

According to Toni Engleman at the Jefferson County Historical Society, finds like this aren’t exactly uncommon. In fact, Watertown is a treasure trove of historical artifacts.

“Watertown does have a lot of older buildings in it. When people are cleaning out basements, cellars, attics, they do run across quite a few old items,” she said.

She says she’s happy to see the flag is getting the recognition it deserves.

“It is exciting to find artifacts such as those because it does have such significance to the area,” she said.

For now, the flag remains in Jake Johnson’s office, untouched since it was packed away decades ago.