Nestling quietly in the San Francisco Bay, the Alcatraz Island was once known for its stringent jailhouse, which was a home for incorrigible convicts. Currently it is one of the most fascinating attractions from travelers all over the world. This is mostly because it has so much of rugged history attached to its name.
It all started in 1775, when a Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala, ambled through the waters of the San Francisco Bay and christened it as La Isla de los Alcatraces which means Island of the Pelicans. And gradually, this stony island which was only graced by the presence of the birds became Alcatraz. Almost over 75 years later, Millard Fillmore, the then President of the United States, directed orders to reserve the island for military purposes. During this period of the 1850s, a fortress was erected with the facility of an operational lighthouse for the West Coast. Subsequently the US Army started confining military prisoners in this as well.
Although built from a strategic defense viewpoint, it didn’t have the opportunity to serve the military in a massive way, leading the army to relinquish it to the government. The Justice Department then utilized this area as federal prison to confine convicts that were extremely unfit to be kept in a normal penitentiary. Reinstated as a maximum-security facility in July 1934, Alcatraz has confined the most infamous inmates like Al Capone, George Machine Gun Kelly, Alvin Creepy Karpis Karpowicz, Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz), Clarence Victor (The Choctaw Kid), Frank Morris, and Roy Gardener.
During the 29 years of the operation, (19341963), Alcatraz witnessed over 14 escape attempts by 36 convicts. Out of these, over 23 men were successfully caught, 6 were shot to death, and 2 went missing. The rest 5 which went missing were presumed to have drowned. One escape endeavor also led to an internal battle, that ultimately led to an intervention by the US Marines. In 1963, the prison permanently closed its doors, as its handling costs was allegedly getting unreasonably high, since it was an isolated island jail. In 1972, it became a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
If you’re intrigued by the twisted past of Alcatraz, then you shouldn’t miss this place the next time you are in San Francisco. From the Pier 33 of the mainland, you can get ferries to get to Alcatraz. You can book the Alcatraz tours tickets online or directly buy them at the ticket counter outside the pier. There are trips leaving early in the morning, afternoon, and night as well.