Construction workers tearing down walls at the long defunct Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland made a gruesome discovery Wednesday: a mummified corpse of indeterminate age or sex.
We're likely going to be hearing a lot about this story in the next few days, as surprise corpses that no one can identify tend to make for good headlines and TV news segments.
The mummified remains could date back decades, or at least since walls were last moved around inside. As KPIX reports, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the presence of the human remains, and the county coroner was on the scene Thursday evening.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, the spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told the Chronicle that the body was likely in there "for many years," and that it had been partially "preserved" inside the wall. Going further with his explanation, Kelly said, "Under ideal conditions a body will harden and become like leather, similar to a mummy."
The construction workers who found the body are with Orton Development, Inc. Orton has plans to rehabilitate and reuse the old convention center as a performance venue, and will be leasing it back from the city — the City of Oakland entered into an exclusive agreement with Orton going back to 2015, and this project was supposed to get underway in 2020.
The building, which sits next to Lake Merritt, was built in 1914, but it closed as an event space back in 2005.
As Wikipedia notes, the building was used as a makeshift hospital during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. The space was home to the Roller Derby throughout the 1950s and 60s, and on December 28, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there to an audience of 7,000 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was also a regular venue for the Grateful Dead from the late 1960s to the 1980s.