Alcatraz - "The Rock"

For thousands of years, the island was a lonely place that was perhaps visited by the Ohlone and Miwok Indians. It went unused during the Spanish occupation of the area in 1776, and when the United States annexed the area from Mexico in 1846. The last Mexican Governor had a plan to build a lighthouse there, but it never materialized. For many years, it was a solitary island of stone guarding the entry to San Francisco Bay.

In 1850, a military board of the United States proposed a defensive stragegy for San Francisco Bay centered around Alcatraz Island. By the time that the Civil War had begun in 1861, Alcatraz had 111 smoothbore cannons and a fortified structure for defense - most of which was located in the building that you see here. Unfortunately, the weapons technology had far surpassed the fortitude of the structure by the time it was ready, so it was never seriously used. This building was later converted to barracks and apartments for the guards of the prison.

These ruins are from the Guardhouse and Sally Port, the oldest buildings on the island. Back in 1857 they were the first line of defense against enemy landing parties. It could only be reached by an oak drawbridge that spanned a fifteen foot deep moat. When the island was discounted as a defensive point during the Civil War, the building was converted to be used to hold suspected Confederate sympathizers and U.S. Army prisoners. Just beyond this structure was the Post Exchange/Officers Club, and the Military Chapel.

Welcome to Broadway! This is the central walkway through the cellhouse, where new inmates were walked through to the taunting of the prisoners. Rule Number 5 from the Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulation Handbook, 1934, stated that "You are entitled to Food, Clothing, Shelter and Medical Attention. Anything else you get is a privilege." That pretty much sums up the way that this institution was run.

This is Mitchel inside one of the standard cells - they were pretty sparse. Each one included a toilet, sink, bunk, and a table that folded out from the wall. Also, there was a shelf along the back wall to store books, toiletries, etc. There were no key-locks on the cells - entrance was controlled from the end of the cell block.

This is the exercise yard, a visit to which had to be earned by good behavior. Notorious criminals such as Al "Scarface" Capone, "Doc" Barker, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Floyd Hamilton, and Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz" all walked down this passageway for a breath of fresh air, and a brief glimpse across the bay.

And here are a few more photos from the island...