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November 26, 2013

Lucky shoes found in old courthouse

NEWPORT, R. I. — You could call it a footnote to American history.

Workers renovating the nation’s fourth oldest standing state building, Colony House, in this seaside community recently discovered a pair of antique, hand-made brown leather men’s shoes beneath the floor boards.

Experts dated the shoes to the 1830s, and said they were likely left there as a good luck custom when the former court house was first renovated in 1840. The building was constructed in 1739.

Ruth Taylor, executive director of the Newport Historical Society, said it was common back then to tuck a pair of shoes into a hiding place during construction in the belief they would bring blessings on the building.

“We’ve found that (old shoes) more than once,” Taylor told the Newport Daily News. “Folks will call us say they found shoes tucked next to the chimney and asking what it means.”

The Historical Society, which took possession of the Colony House shoes, described them as featuring narrow oval toes and short heels with small wooden pegs. Taylor said they were lined with linen, and intended for wearing indoors.

To ward off any possibility that removing them would bring bad luck upon Colony House, Taylor replaced them in the exact spot where they were discovered with a pair of her shoes from the late 20th century.

“OK, we’re safe,” declared Taylor.

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