Supporters of converting the historic Nevada State Prison into a museum, archaeological dig, a movie set or even a bed-and-breakfast asked the Senate Government Affairs Committee’s support Monday.
Assembly Bill 356 by Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, would give the Nevada State Prison Preservation Society group the next two years to flesh out a plan for preserving the prison, which was closed down a year ago.
Livermore said they want to ensure that the prison doesn’t fall into disrepair.
NSP was operated continuously from 1862 — two years before statehood — until 2012. Former Director of Corrections Glen Whorton said the group is most interested in the oldest part of the prison, which has 100-year-old buildings. He said the prison has significant historic value since it’s been part of Carson City since the capital was founded.
Whorton said as the Warm Springs Hotel, it was a gathering place for the territorial legislature. He added that scientists have found significant geologic and fossil remains on the property including giant sloth footprints. Whorton also expressed his opinion that the prison is an excellent site for Hollywood films.
Witnesses even suggested there are people who would pay to spend the night in one of NSP’s old cells almost like a bed-and-breakfast.
But he said AB356 is designed to let supporters work out a plan for the old prison.
“We’re not exactly sure where this is going to go,” he said. “It’s a planning process.”
Myron Carpenter said he believes NSP has huge potential as a tourist draw.
“It will be self-supporting,” he said pointing to the success other states have had in converting old prisons to tourist attractions. “It will draw tourists in here.”
E.K. McDaniel, deputy director of the Department of Corrections, assured the committee that, not only do they support the bill, they intend to keep NSP “in a way it can be preserved.”
He also pointed out that the prison isn’t completely decommissioned. The license plate “tag” plant and the execution chamber still are in operation there.
Carson Mayor Bob Crowell said the Board of Supervisors has unanimously endorsed the project and is concerned NSP may be torn down.
“We have had experiences where landmarks have been obliterated,” he said citing the old V&T Roundhouse north of the capitol, which was torn down more than a decade ago.
The committee took no action on the bill, which has already been passed by the Assembly.