Alcatraz Island

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Alcatraz Island California- Island
Alcatraz Island California- garden
Alcatraz Island California- cell
Alcatraz Island California- top view

City Listings

City Listing Category

Geographical Address

Duty Station(s)
Public Address
San Francisco, CA 94133, United States
Postal Code

Contact Info

415 561-4900

Business Info

Operating Hours
  • Mon 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Tue 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Wed 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Thu 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Fri 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Closed now
  • Sat 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Sun 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Alcatraz reveals stories of American incarceration, justice, and our common humanity. This small island was once a fort, a military prison, and a maximum-security federal penitentiary. In 1969, the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights. We invite you to explore Alcatraz's complex history and natural beauty.

Yerba Buena Island was labeled on Ayala's 1775 chart of San Francisco Bay as "Isla de Alcatraces". The name was later applied to the rock now known as Alcatraz Island by Captain Frederick W. Beechey, an English naval officer, and explorer.[

Over the years, the Spanish version of "Alcatraz" became popular and is now widely used. In August 1827, for instance, French Captain Auguste Bernard Duhaut-Cilly wrote "... running past Alcatraze's (Pelicans) Island ... covered with a countless number of these birds. A gun fired over the feathered legions caused them to fly up in a great cloud and with a noise like a hurricane."The California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) is not known to nest on the island today. The Spanish built several small buildings on the island and other minor structures.

Fort Alcatraz

The earliest recorded private owner of the island of Alcatraz is Julian Workman, to whom it was given by Mexican governor Pio Pico in June 1846, with the understanding that Workman would build a lighthouse on it.[14] Julian Workman is the baptismal name of William Workman, co-owner of Rancho La Puente and a personal friend of Pio Pico. Later in 1846, acting in his capacity as Military Governor of California, John C. Frémont bought the island for $5,000 in the name of the United States government from Francis Temple.

Because of the isolation created by the cold, strong currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay, as early as 1859, Alcatraz was used to housing soldiers convicted of crimes. By 1861, the fort was the military prison for the Department of the Pacific. It housed Civil War prisoners of war (POWs) as early as that year.

The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933, and the island was designated as a federal prison in August 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. At 9:40 am on August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived at Alcatraz, arriving by railroad from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas to Santa Venetia, California. They were escorted to Alcatraz, while handcuffed in high-security coaches and guarded by 60 special FBI agentsU.S. Marshals, and railway security officials.

Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers and murderers. The prison initially had a staff of 155, including the first warden James A. Johnston and associate warden J. E. Shuttleworth, both considered to be "iron men". The staff was highly trained in security, but not rehabilitation.


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