Unlocking a mystery inside an ancient State House vault

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

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Inside an ancient vault in the heart of the State House, past two massive steel doors with timed locks, sits an ornately decorated safe, the size of a small car.

Until recently, no one knew the combinations to its locks or what, exactly, was hidden inside.

Longtime staff members in the treasurer’s office, where the walk-in vault is located, say the safe within has been locked as long as they can remember, at least two decades, the codes to open it lost as employees came and went.

But this month, after inquiries from a Globe reporter, state Treasurer Steven Grossman acknowledged that he, too, wondered about the contents of the safe, which probably dates to the 1890s.

He brought in two professional safecrackers to open it.

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