The old Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Park Service made the announcement Friday, pointing out NSP is older than Nevada’s statehood, having been opened as the territorial prison in 1862.
“That’s an extremely important milestone in the development of the prison as a destination for Carson City,” said Mayor Bob Crowell.
Supervisor Lori Bagwell, who retired several years ago after a career at the Department of Corrections, also touted the prison’s potential as a tourist attraction.
“I think Carson City will be so pleased when it becomes the best visitor attraction in the United States,” she said.
Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill of Carson City, who shepherded through legislation enabling the conversion of the prison into a tourist attraction, said the news is excellent for both the capital and the state.
“I give credit to Pete (Livermore,),” he said. “I know he’s smiling down on us.”
Livermore, who began the push to make NSP an historic tourist attraction while an assemblyman, died last year.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said City Manager Nick Marano. “A lot of people put a lot of hard work into it and we’re just very grateful the prison got the recognition it deserves. I’m looking forward to the rest of America discovering this history that’s there.”
The historic period established by the National Register focuses on the period from 1862-1867 when the state “created a prison complex with administrative practices that treated prisoners as patients who could be rehabilitated through labor.”
The prison began as a resort established by Carson City founder Abe Curry in 1861 as the Warm Springs Hotel. The state bought it for a prison the following year and operated it until 2012 when it finally shut down.
“It is another reason for visitors to enjoy Carson City,” said Ronni Hannaman, Carson City Chamber of Commerce director. “It is more pride for Carson City’s historical attractions.”
Glen Whorton, former director of Corrections and head of the prison preservation group said the historic designation “legitimizes the history of the facility.”
He said it also gives his organization the leverage to apply for grant money from a number of organizations who can help convert the prison into a museum, tourist destination, archaeological dig and even, potentially, a movie set.
“That institution has been out there 150 years and it has had a dramatic effect on our community,” he said. “It truly is history and deserves to be preserved, developed and made accessible.”
Whorton said his nonprofit group is already working to document some of the institution’s history and collect artifacts that support the effort.
“We’re looking for organizations that might be willing to help and partner with us,” he said.
In the meantime, he said the group is working to ready parts of NSP for winter. This morning, he said, a group of nine sailors from Naval Air Station Fallon are working to help weed and clean up the grounds within NSP.
“We’re working on it,” he said.