After 150 Years, Nevada State Prison's Future Uncertain

The Nevada State Prison was officially decommissioned Friday, turning a page on 150 years of the state

Nevada State Prison

The Nevada State Prison was officially decommissioned Friday, turning a page on 150 years of the state's history.

It was, former Corrections Director Glen Whorton said, a day to honor the people who served here rather than wax nostalgic about the building itself.

Perhaps so, but there's little argument about the place the old prison holds in Nevada history and in the crowd were many who had strong connections with the place
Denver Dickerson's grandfather served twice as its warden, dying in 1925 on the grounds in what was the warden's residence.

"I just felt since it played such an important part in our family's history, I should be here."

Others in the crowd of several hundred had worked here. It's likely some served time here.

And some just wanted to be present at the turning of a big page in the state's history.

"This town and this city grew up with this prison and the prison was here almost from the beginning," said former state archivist Guy Rocha. "So, its passing is monumental."

In fact, the prison predates the state, opening in 1862 when the state bought the Warm Springs Hotel and turned it into a prison. That building burned down and was replaced by the beginning of these structure we see today.

Inside are sights few other than inmates and prison personnel every saw and after today may never be seen again."

So, it was for a first and final look that most in the crowd lined up today for a tour of the old prison. The yard, the cell blocks, the cave that once served for solitary confinement.

It will sit silent and empty now until it own fate is decided.

Elsewhere, in Idaho, Montana, Missouri and at San Francisco Bay's Alcatraz, old prisons have served as attractions, parks and museums.

"If this was done right," says Rocha. "I'd like to think the investment in saving it would be returned over time with large tourist traffic and what a wonderful place for motion picture locations."

Would it work here? Maybe, but in the current economic climate a funding source is uncertain.

"People will venerate this building," says Rocha. "The question is what is its future? As I said will it be a liability or an asset? And it's problematic because of the amount of money it would take to save this, and it might be worth it, where does it come from?"

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