Officials: $50K could open old Nevada State Prison museum

Wed, Oct 9, 2019 (1:34 p.m.)

CARSON CITY — The historic Nevada State Prison needs about another $50,000 worth of work before it can open as a museum, officials said.

Glen Whorton, Nevada State Prison Preservation Society president and former state prisons chief, told about a dozen people touring the Carson City facility on Tuesday that the society has spent about $30,000 for improvements including making one bathroom handicap-accessible.

The Nevada Appeal reports that Whorton said another $50,000 would pay for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramp, asbestos removal, lighting and electricity hook-ups.

The prison predates Nevada statehood and was in operation for 150 years, from 1862 to 2012. It held up to 841 maximum-security inmates.

Former Republican Assemblyman Pete Livermore of Carson City led a push in the Legislature in 2013 to make the 150-year-old facility a museum. Livermore died in 2014.

Whorton spent 32 years with the Nevada Department of Corrections before retiring as state prisons chief in 2007.

The tour included a look inside men's and women's cell blocks; the cafeteria where a board still displays the last menu; and the death chamber where executions were conducted.

Four men were hanged at once in November 1905 in the largest mass execution in state history. An inmate in 1913 chose firing squad and was killed by an automated rack of three rifles mounted on a frame.

The prison was the site of the first execution by lethal gas in the United States in 1924. The last prisoner executed by gas was in 1979. The last execution was by lethal injection in 2006, and there hasn't been another in Nevada since then.

Another room showed off art work by inmates, including a wall mural above doorways painted by Rodney Lynn Halbower, the "Gypsy Hill Killer" who authorities say raped and killed women in Northern California and Nevada in the 1970s, including 17-year-old Michelle Mitchell in Reno in 1976.

"NSP is part of the unique history of Carson City and the state of Nevada and should be shared," Carson City Chamber of Commerce executive Ronni Hannaman said. "The economic impact of this prison museum could be substantial."

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