We are now living just a few blocks away from parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which includes Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. This federal prison operated until 1963 and later became a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
We had some good friends in town last weekend and decided to take the ferry out to the island and see what’s out there. Luckily it was a perfect, sunny day.
The boat ride out to the island gave us a great view of the entire bay.
The old, weathered buildings on the island are very photogenic and there’s a great, eerie, frozen-in-time stillness blanketing the island.
In 1969 a local Indian tribe used legitimate but forgotten federal land laws to occupy the island. This occupation lasted nineteen months and eventually ended when the last people were removed from the island by government officers.
Below is the cell of Frank Morris, the inmate portrayed by Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz, including a dummy head used to fool prison officers making night-time inspections. Frank and two other inmates spent two years planning and executing their escape. They are presumed dead but still considered fugitives until proven otherwise.
The small cells are stacked three high and offered very little in the way of comfort. The drafty windows allowed the damp, chilly Northern California wind to sweep through the cells. This was a place reserved for men who broke the rules at other prisons, so comfort and privileges were rare.
The tour of the facilities is self guided with the aid of a very good audio-tour provided to visitors on a small player and headset. The tour is narrated by former staff and inmates of the prison which lends authenticity and insight you don’t find in most tours. We highly recommend the trip to anyone visiting the bay area.