Ghosts of Carson is a series that looks at the abandoned buildings of Carson City.
If you’ve spent any time at all in Carson City, you’ve seen the Kinkead Building. It’s a large square office building in the heart of town, just a couple of blocks from the Capitol building. If you’ve been in town a while you’ve probably noticed that this building at the corner of East King and Second streets seems deserted; you never see anyone going in or out. And if you’re a Carson City long-timer you probably know the whole story. But in commemoration of the announcement this week that the Kinkead Building is going to be demolished next month, let’s take a closer look at this much-reviled building.
The Kinkead Building was constructed in 1975 as an office building for State employees. The building was named after John Kinkead, the third governor of Nevada, who served from 1879 to 1883. At the time it was one of the largest office buildings in town, and over the years housed departments such as Human Services, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Mental Health and Developmental Services, and Information Technology. Its proximity to the Capitol building, Legislature and the other State buildings downtown made it very convenient, and its size gave the State government plenty of room to grow.
But there were problems from the very beginning. The building’s foundation started settling unevenly, which led to sloping floors in some of the offices. Large chunks of concrete started falling out of the building’s central core. The windows were not weatherproof and during strong storms rain would come in through cracks in the windows. Years worth of complaints stacked up from employees who had to work in the building. Engineering reports showed fundamental flaws in the structure that could lead to collapse during a strong earthquake. What was supposed to be the premier office building in Carson City turned out to be the biggest turkey. The head of Buildings and Grounds called it the worst building the State of Nevada ever built, and tried to get it condemned. By the mid 2000s, the Kinkead’s useful days were over.
The idea that the Kinkead Building needed to be abandoned really started picking up steam in 2005. Around the same time the Richard Bryan Building was built at the corner of Stewart Street and Little Lane, and plans were drawn up for a twin building to sit behind it. That building would have faced Roop and most of the departments from the Kinkead Building would have moved there. But the State was never able to get the funds approved to build that new building. And all the time the Kinkead was getting worse. It was finally decided in 2005 to vacate the Kinkead Building and temporarily lease office space elsewhere in Carson until the new building could be built.
The Legislature and Governor both voiced their support for this plan. In September 2005 a small earthquake sent spooked employees racing for the exits, although no further damage was detected from the quake. But after that it was a done deal, and the process of moving employees out began in 2006. In January 2007, the building was finally empty and the doors were permanently locked.
It has been 10 years since the last employee moved out of the Kinkead Building. In that time the State had tried many times to get the money approved to demolish the structure. Each time it comes up before the Legislature the funding has been denied. Never mind the new building that was promised over a decade ago; just the act of removing this old crumbling building was something that couldn’t get approved. During the 2017 Legislature the request came up again, and this time it was actually passed. $1.7 million was approved in the state budget to demolish the Kinkead Building. With money in hand the process of actually doing it began, and in September 2017 it was announced that interior demolition would begin in October. The building will be dismantled over the course of several weeks and is expected to be completely gone before New Year’s.
The loss of the Kinkead Building is going to leave a large hole in the middle of town. With its six stories of gleaming white walls the building is quite a landmark. I can remember as a child seeing it from way across town and thinking that such a prominent building must be something special. Entering downtown from the south is it much more noticeable than either the Capitol or the Ormsby House.
But I agree that it is way past due for it to be demolished. For over 40 years it has been a turkey at the heart of town, an embarrassment to all those who know the true story. For 10 years it has been an abandoned hulk, with people wondering if it would fall down before it was knocked down. And now its story is finally coming to an end.
It may be another 10 years before the promised replacement ever gets built on Roop Street. Many of the departments that used to occupy the Kinkead Building have relocated to office space on Arrowhead, and from what I’ve heard the only real problem with those buildings is that they are so far away from downtown that tons of employee time is wasted in travelling. The State owns lots of land in the downtown core, and it would be good from an efficiency standpoint to bring all those employees back.
I’m sure many of you readers have personal experiences with the Kinkead Building. I never had the pleasure of experiencing the building; I doubt I ever had reason to go inside. But if you have stories of the horrors of what it was like to work in the Kinkead, or even fond memories that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.
Most of my info on the Kinkead Building came from articles in the Nevada Appeal newspaper; at the end of the photo gallery I will put links to all the stories they have written over the years about the saga. I’ve written my own articles about it twice before, in 2005 and in 2008. And I will be on hand to document the demolition in pictures, so watch this space this winter.
Nevada Appeal articles about the Kinkead Building:
Kinkead Building worst building state ever built, June 17, 2005
Engineers say Kinkead Building safe … unless, June 17, 2005
Panel to consider options for Kinkead Building complaints, September 13, 2005
Lawmakers support worker objections to Kinkead Building, September 15, 2005
Quake rattles Kinkead Building, workers, September 16, 2005
Governor says tear it down, November 3, 2005
Workers to move out of Kinkead Building, November 8, 2005
Kinkead Building to be abandoned, November 9, 2005
Kinkead Building to be dark by June, January 13, 2006
Smiles and jokes as happy workers move out of Kinkead, March 6, 2006
Final Kinkead chapter too long in writing, March 10, 2006
Kinkead Building move pushed back to September, April 4, 2006
Kinkead move won’t be until November, September 16, 2006
Kinkead workers may start moving by end of November, October 11, 2006
Kinkead Building finally empty, January 26, 2007
Carson City Kinkead building finally on list for demolition, February 17, 2017
Stewart, Kinkead projects among those going forward, May 19, 2017
Destruction of Carson City Kinkead building to begin next month, September 26, 2017