CARSON CITY, NV - For the first time in 150 years, the Nevada State Prison is empty Monday night,.
Earlier in the day the prison';s last six inmates left, transferred elsewhere in the state';s prison system.
"There's a sense of passing, an ending," says Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Suwe. "Yes, maybe even melancholy."
Like many longtime staffers in the department, Suwe can't remember a time when the old prison wasn't part of his life.
In fact, the Carson City prison has been part of the state's history from the beginning. In fact, it predates statehood by two years.
In 1862, the territorial legislature bought the Warm Springs Hotel and 20 acres from Carson City founder Abraham Curry, founded the prison and made him its first warden.
The original structure burned, but a new one was built in 1867 of sandstone quarried on the site, the same stone built the state capitol a few years later.
There have been some unique moments in that century and a half. In 1924 convicted murderer Gee Jon became the first man executed by lethal gas in the U-S. The execution took place in an outbuilding at the prison. The gas chamber was later constructed within the prison buildings,
Recreation opportunities were sometimes slim, but the prison did offer something uniquely Nevadan until 1967--the "Bullpen", it's own in-house casino.
As decades rolled by though the prison's design became antiquated. In recent years administrators argued it was too expensive to operate safely and efficiently.
Finally, in a time of budget cuts, those arguments won out,.
Decisions on relocating the remaining functions at the prison--the state's license plate factory and its execution chamber are still pending.
The state will vacate the site in Mrch. The prison's future remains uncertain though there is talk of eventually turning it into a museum.