Alcatraz

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- Click on a link below to begin a tour of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. You can explore from any starting point: turn right, turn left, look closer.

[Ctrl] shows you the places where you can click in the picture. [Esc] will bring you to the previous picture.

Welcome to a prison! It is not a pleasant place to spend a life. Except, perhaps, at Alcatraz.

 

 

On the way to Alcatraz

 
Panorama of San Francisco and Alcatraz Island from Pier 39 overpass

From the top of the Pier 39 overpass. Panorama of the city and Alcatraz Island.

The overpass leads from three-store parking lot across Embarcadero directly to the shops and restaurants of Pier 39. A great view of the Fisherman's Wharf, the bay, and the city, dominated by Coit Tower and the Pyramid. Jump down right to the Alcatraz-ticket building at Pier 41.

 
San Francisco view from the Blue and Gold Fleet boat

Boarding the Blue and Gold Fleet boat and leaving the San Francisco harbor.

The island is located a mile (1.5 km) from shore. About 2 miles (3 km) from the TransAmerica Pyramid.

 
The lighthouse and Warden's house at Alcatraz. View from the bay

Approaching

The boat usually goes straight to the Alcatraz wharf, but here we have the advantage of circling the island and seeing all sides - circumnavigational tour;

 
     
 

At the island

 
A ranger tells a story. Guard tower

On the pier

Upon arrival you are met by friendly rangers who tell you about the history, nature, and dangers of the island. On the left are military barracks and casemates on the ground( from the bay side) floor.

Fortifications at the Alcatraz island were begun in 1853. By 1861 the batteries and the Citadel had 85 cannons and a garrison of 130 men [ Military museum ].

 
Officers' club

At the officers' club

On the way up to the cell house, you will see this building. It was a general store during the military time, then converted to the Officer's Club during Penitentiary time. It hosted dances, dinners, parties, and had a gym. The building was burnt down in 1970  fire.

 
At the south exit from cellhouse

Main exit to the lighthouse plaza

The lighthouse was build in 1910. Wonderful views surround this place. The so called "Warden's House" was build in 1926 and destroyed in the same 1970 fire which destroyed the Officer's Club. The next evening, the Native Americans occupying the island at the time supplied an electrical generator to power the lighthouse. More about this: NPS, CSULB.

A warden is a chief officer. There were 4 wardens in Alcatraz history.

 
Recreation yard

Exit to the recreation yard

Spending time in the recreation yard was a privilege.

 

An industrial building at the north end of the island

Industrial buildings

There was a military laundry (the building to the left) and workshops in these buildings where inmates could make some money.

 
Cellhouse

A walk north along the west side of the island

Here are Golden Gate Bridge Views.

 
At the Alcatraz Island Exit from the barber shop  
Water Tower

North exit

A 250,000 gallon ( 950 m3 ) water tank was built in 1939. The water was used mainly for the laundry industry.

 
Agave Trail. Spectacular views of San Francisco

Agave trail

A relatively new feature, designed for tourists to enjoy views and nature. It leads from the wharf ( Dock area ) up to the Parade Ground.

 
A view from the parade ground

Parade Ground

The military Parade Ground was surrounded by houses which were later demolished. You are going to walk between these ruins. These pictures were taken the very first day the Parade Ground was opened for visitors, right after the seabird nesting season. It needed a little cleaning! A tiny fog-horn box is nearby.

 
Casemates at Alcatraz Fort Museum and casemates  
Guardhouse 24-pound howitzer

Inside the guardhouse

The guardhouse is the oldest remaining structure on the island. It was built in 1857. The very first Alcatraz prisoners were kept here. There are two little rooms on both sides. The passage you are going to walk through under the guns is called the "sally port".

 
     
 

Crossroads:

 
Above military barracks

Above the Barracks

This is a spot near the top of the barracks. From here you can go up to the prison cellhouse or down to the Officer's Club and beyond, to the industries building or the wharf plaza.

 
Alcatraz map

By the Alcatraz map

In one of the small rooms of the cellhouse there is a map on the wall. The photo of the map is special in this tour. You can be teleported from here to any island location.

 
     
 

Panoramas:

 
San Francisco panorama. Coit Tower, the Pyramid, Bank of America.

San Francisco and Bay Bridge

You are at the Warden's House, located in about a mile (1.5 km) from Pier 41. The Pyramid is about 2 miles (3 km) away. Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower is on the left, Bank of America building on the right. Click right to continue with the city panorama, or left to view the Ferry Building, the Bay Bridge (about 3 miles (5 km) away), and Treasure Island.

 

Golden Gate Bridge panoramas

This link leads to a page with several Golden Gate Bridge panoramas. The bridge is about 3 miles (5 km) away.

 
Angel Island panorama

Angel Island

is located about 2 miles (3 km) away. Unlike Alcatraz, Angel Island has springs and creeks supplying drinkable water. It was a base for Spaniard exploration of the bay area in 1775. Later it served as a military base and Immigration Station [ AISP ]. More links on the page.

 
at Agave Trail at Alcatraz

San Francisco, the Bay, and Bay Bridge panorama

This is another city and bay panorama taken on the Agave Trail close to water.

 
     
 

Back to San Francisco

 
San Francisco View from the Blue and Gold Fleet Boat From Alcatraz to San Francisco on the Blue and Gold Fleet boat  
 

Inside the prison

 
Main cellhouse entrance

At the south entrance

This is a main entrance to the cellhouse building. The Warden's house is behind, the lighthouse on the left. Once there, don't miss a peek into the control room.

The building was built as a military prison in 1912. It had 600 cells. For that time it was one of the largest reinforced concrete buildings in the world. From 1917 to 1933 it was an Army prison.

From 1934 to 1964 it was a maximum security prison. On average it contained about 250 inmates at any given moment. In 1948 the custodial stuff consisted of 84 men. There were about 300 civilians living on the island including children.

 

 
Visitation

Visitation

This is a place where prisoners were sometimes allowed to speak with visitors. A small window close to the center is a gun-port.

 
Row of cells

Main block, "Broadway"

All cell doors can be opened and closed simultaneously. Keys were lowered from the caged gun galleries. Officers inside were unarmed. Inmates were not supposed to talk to each other. Considered escape-proof, the building saw escapes and riots. In 14 attempts, 5 men out of 36 broke out successfully and disappeared. During these events 3 guards were killed.

 
A cell

A cell in the main block

The size of a cell is 5x9 feet ( 1.5x2.5 m).

 
Inside the shower room

Exit to the shower room

The shower room was a dangerous place where fights between inmates occurred ( other places were the dining room and the recreation yard ). 3 times a week inmates were showered with hot water and given a roll of toilet paper and a bar of soap to be used in the cell afterward. Walk around the room and you can exit to up the stairs to the main block or straight.

 
Barber shop

Barber shop

The Barber shop has an exit. To stay in the main building, turn left at the second picture. There you will be able to see Al Capone's cell in the second raw.

 
Inside a solitary confinement cell

The Entrance to the D block

This is a special block separated from the main block. Along with regular cells it has solitary confinement cells without daylight, like the one in the picture, to correct misbehaving prisoners. Exit from the D block to the library.

 
Dining hall kitchen

Dining Hall

Food was better here than in other prisons.

 
Inside the prison At the east entrance  
Prisoners

Entrance through the barber shop

Al Capone's cell is on the right.

 

Inmate entrance wing on the ground floor.

This wing contains several small rooms and an entrance where inmates were brought into the cell house. They proceeded into the shower room. Lectures are conducted here now. The dinning room is above on the second floor.

 
     
 

Crossroads:

 

In front of the dining hall

Three times a day prisoners went through here to the dining room. 3 times a week they went down to the shower room. Some of them walked daily through here to the recreation yard or to work and back. All of them went through here at least once a month to the barber shop. Some of them made their voyage to solitary confinement. This was the center of the prison universe were everything started and ended.

 

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