Mummified body found in shuttered Bay Area building

Construction workers earlier this week discovered a body inside a wall at the long-abandoned Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center at Oakland’s Lake Merritt, KPIX reported. The body had been inside the building for so long it was mummified, making it difficult to determine its age or gender, the news outlet reported.

Originally constructed in 1914, the building is a designated historic landmark that’s been shuttered since 2005 because of operational costs. Since its closure, it’s been in a state of decay, looming over the lake and serving as a “monument to disinvestment.” However, Oakland wants to resurrect the abandoned venue in order to make the surrounding district a “destination for arts and culture.” In 2015, the city authorized an agreement with Orton Development to restore and rehabilitate the property as a performing arts and commercial space.

The colossal Beaux Arts building, which overlooks the Lake Merritt skyline on 10th Street, is also a source of interest because it has a unique and storied history. Per the developer’s website and a project overview from 2014, at 215,000 square feet, the center boasts a 1,900-seat theater and 6,000-seat auditorium along with three ballrooms. It used to host the likes of Elvis Presley, James Brown and the Grateful Dead, who performed 57 shows at the venue from 1979 to 1994. In the past, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton have also spoken and performed at the center, along with Martin Luther King Jr., who celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation’s 100th anniversary there on Dec. 28, 1962. And when the Spanish flu took hold of the city, it became an overflow ward for ill Oaklanders.

While the convention center was supposed to undergo construction in the summer of 2020, the $ 52 million project has been delayed and still has yet to be completed. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to KPIX that the county coroner is investigating the site.


Orton Development declined to comment and representatives from the city of Oakland did not respond to SFGATE’s request for comment.

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