The Nevada State Prison Preservation Society is now accepting memberships from people who want to be among the early pioneers of an effort to create a museum and tours of the state's oldest prison.
Anyone interested in joining NSPPS is encouraged to attend a general-membership meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Ormsby Room of the Carson City Sheriff's Office, 911 E. Musser St., Carson City.
The volunteer group was formed in recent months to preserve the historic prison on the state capital's east side. The prison was built in 1862 and is the third-oldest in the West, after only San Quentin and Alcatraz. It was decommissioned in May 2012.
NSPPS is a Nevada nonprofit corporation and is applying for federal nonprofit status.
Individual memberships start at $25 a year and will help NSPPS fund its goals of not only preserving a unique and prominent piece of Nevada history, but to open the old prison's doors to tourists and events.
Checks may be sent to NSPPS, Suite 300, 1900 S. Carson St., Carson City, NV, 89701.
The Preservation Society has plans to:
• Preserve the historic portions of the prison and its unusual features, such as the original 'hole' - a dungeon-like cave where the worst prisoners were isolated - and the quarry from which stones for several state buildings were mined. The prison property also contains fossilized footprints of prehistoric animals, an execution chamber where 32 people have died, the site of the world's first gas-execution chamber in 1924, and it once housed the Bullpen casino for inmates and other curiosities.
• Open a museum and gift shop inside the old prison and conduct tours for visitors.
• Place the old Nevada State Prison on the National Registry of Historic Places.
To these ends, Assemblyman Pete Livermore of Carson City has requested a bill in the 2013 Nevada Legislature to enable a long-term lease of the landmark by the state to the- NSPPS. Once it is approved, the group can move forward with its plans and hopes to offer the first tours in the summer of 2013.
In the meantime, NSPPS is recruiting members and volunteers who want to help build the organization's foundation and be involved from the beginning of this important effort.
There will be many opportunities in the coming months to protect and share one of Nevada's key historical landmarks.
"I would hate to see us lose the old state prison, like we've lost so many of our other historic sites," said NSPPS President Myron Carpenter. "It's a huge part of the history of the capital and the state of Nevada, and we must preserve it for the education of future generations."
Membership in NSPPS is open to anyone, regardless of whether you live in Nevada.