An Intriguing Visit to Alcatraz Island
It is hard to imagine a site governed by the National Parks Service could also trill fear in the hearts of men. The mere mention of its name holds a haunting echo in history. Situated within the San Francisco Bay is the infamous Alcatraz Island. A Lighthouse was built on the Island in the mid-1800s to serve as a beacon across the dark waters. This decision began the Island’s decent into becoming one of the most notorious places in the world you can still visit today.
Alcatraz Island. The Beginning
Alcatraz received its name from Spanish Sergeant, Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. The vacant and rocky island had an abundance of sea birds which was the inspiration for calling it “La Isla de Los Alcatraces”. As San Francisco steadily grew in population, the bay was used for a number of trades and travel. Rumors of Gold invited tens of thousands of people to the region by boat. After a marked amount of wreckages and collisions, the lighthouse was designed. Five years later in 1859, a fort was completed to protect the Island from enemy attacks.
Within a few years, the American Civil War ensued making the fort on Alcatraz both an asset and the largest American Fort in the West. Known for its watery surroundings, soldiers who were convicted of crime were sent to Alcatraz as escape into the Bay was deemed an impossibility. Over the next four decades, Alcatraz Island transitioned from a Military fortress to a Military prison. The prisoners built several buildings and foundations until all military presence departed in 1933.
Alcatraz Island. The Notorious End
In August of 1934, Alcatraz became the Federal Prison it is most known for. Thought to be inescapable, the buildings were reformed into a maximum security prison. This was not a place for the faint of heart. In fact, common thieves or petty law breakers were not accepted into Alcatraz. The prison was only for criminals who were either unmanageable at other prisons or are considered a grave threat based on their position or crime committed. From cold blooded murderers to the criminally insane, Alcatraz has held over 1500 inmates such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and the Birdman of Alcatraz. In the time Alcatraz was in operation there were a few attempts at escaping. Between the cold waters and currents and the armed guards who sought them out, there is only one potential plan that was successful. Evidence indicates they may have drowned in the Bay; however solid proof has never been procured. A lack of funds and poor maintenance brought the rein of Alcatraz to an end in 1963. The Island remains a host for visitors who want to see the historical legend for themselves. It is an intriguing opportunity to relive the days as the prisoners experienced them. Views of the Bay and the stone walls that still stand will give you a moment to appreciate the fact that you were never there.