On Sunday 24th May we took a boat trip from Pier 33 to the notorious island prison of Alcatraz, which is situated in the San Francisco Bay, near to Angel Island and Treasure Island.
Alcatraz is best known by legend as a federal prison where no one was executed and no one escaped, however because of the islands unique and harsh microclimate the prison was shut down in 1963 due to its deterioration in condition. The island gained its nickname “The Rock” from World War 2 soldiers stationed on the island with regards to its isolation and remoteness.
Alcatraz Island was originally given the name La Isla de los Alcatraces (The Island of the Pelicans) by Juan Manuel de Ayala y Aranza in 1775 when he became the first person to charter the San Francisco bay area. In 1847 the US government ordered a surveillance of the island with regards to the potential construction of fortifications to protect the Bay Area from Spanish invaders.
It took almost 50 years for the island to be carved into the steep slopes and cliffs recognisable today. By 1850, the island was made into a military garrison and when the American Civil War broke out in 1861 the island was fitted with 85 cannons (later increased to 105 by 1866) and became a storage base for firearms to prevent them falling into the hands of confederate sympathisers. Also in 1861, the island adopted another role and became a military prison. by 1867 a brick jailhouse was built on the island and in 1868 Alcatraz was designated a long term detention facility for military prisoners.
Alcatraz became a federal prison in the August of 1934 and held prisoners that consistently caused trouble in other federal prisons. During the 29 years that Alcatraz was a federal prison it held many notorious prisoners, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bump Johnson and Alvin “Creepy” Krepis (who served more time on the island than anyone else) along with many more.
Alcatraz was occupied by a number on native Americans for 19 months from 1969. Those that occupied the island during this time demanded that the island be adapted so that there could be new structures built and an Indian education centre built along with a culture and ecology centre.
In 1972 the island became a National Recreation Area and in 1986 was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is now managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Sent by Clare Eales