I never had visited the island in the three decades of living in the area, and perhaps the mentality of "that's only where the tourists go" played into why I never did. My spouse and I do a good job of trying to limit these types of attractions on our visits, but we've been to the area together enough to start putting these places into our rotation. On this trip back to California, we figured it was time to make our first visit to the island.
Like our trip to Mackinac Island in the middle of 2014, pictures really are the best way to tell the tale of our visit on a slightly windy otherwise sunny late-December day:
|One of the old cannon batteries on the island. The island was first designated|
by the U.S. Government for military use shortly after California statehood
and the Gold Rush in 1850. Alcatraz, along with Fort Point and Fort Baker,
formed the defense for a possible San Francisco Bay invasion. Alcatraz's
guns were never fired in battle, and the facility turned into a military prison
prior to takeover by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
|A look at the second floor's "Gun Gallery", where armed guards would patrol|
the prison from the walkways in the gallery. Keys that were needed to open a
door were lowered to guards below via the device on the lower half of the grate.
|Informational displays were found throughout the facility; we found they|
helped supplement the already detailed audio narration to great effect.
|Inside the prison's control/dispatch room: the space reminded me a bit|
of the broadcast booth of the radio station I spun records at during
college, sans any turntables or record albums.
|Looking at the cell blocks A through C from the corner of "Seedy" Street|
(a nickname for the main walkway between C and D cell blocks)
|Multi-media art installations by famed Chinese activist Ai Weiwei were|
found throughout the island. Titled "@Large", Weiwei's artworks
"explore urgent questions about human rights and freedom of expression
and responds to the potent and layered history of Alcatraz as a place
place of detainment and protest," as described on the National Parks
Service's webpage detailing these exhibits. Activities exhibit visitors
could partake in included sending postcards of support to imprisoned
activists and listen to various musical works inside a prison cell.
|This message on the island's water tower hints at Alcatraz Island's past|
as a center of protest for American Indian rights, climaxing with the
nearly 19-month occupation of the island by rights protesters from 1969
to 1971. This spurred other actions that helped bring Indian rights more to
the forefront in the public conscience and the U.S. Government, and led to
the annual "Unthanksgiving Day", a morning gathering on Thanksgiving
Day on the island to honor the indigenous people of America.
Alcatraz Island National Historic Landmark
(part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area)
Open for regular visits all year except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
National Park Service Website Page
Ferry service/park admission available through:
Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing
San Francisco, California 94111
(415) 981-ROCK (7625)
Facebook Twitter Website