Hey! Alcatraz tours anyone? Let’s take a short 10-minute ferry ride across San Francisco Bay?
This eerie and menacing island is a fantastic place to visit.
Located approximately 1- 1/4 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay in Northern California... Alcatraz Island - known as ‘The Rock’ - is America's most notorious federal penitentiary... and now it's a national recreation area.
But it wasn’t always a federal penitentiary, you know. Nope.
Did you know that many, MANY years before the Civil War, sea birds - like seagulls and pelicans... filled the rugged rocks of Alcatraz?
Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala - a Spanish explorer - sailed into San Francisco Bay in 1775, and recorded certain landmarks... naming one of the islands "Isla de los Alcatraces" -- Island of the Pelicans -- because there were so many of them on it.
You might not know this... but before Alcatraz housed ruthless criminals, the military used the island during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War to protect the land and its mineral resources from seizure by other countries.
See... when James Marshall discovered gold along the banks of the American River in 1848... word about finding gold rang out all over the world.
Hundreds of ships overflowing with
gold-seekers to set sail for California.
San Francisco's population exploded - from 300 to 30,000 - in just a few years... becoming the center of world attention.
So how does Alcatraz Island fit into all of this?
Well ask the tour guide to tell you the story about it. And how it became the first United States fort garrisoned by the Army on the west coast.
Did you know that the Alcatraz lighthouse became the first American-built lighthouse on the Pacific Coast?
Even though the original lighthouse was taken down before Alcatraz Island became a federal prison... some people still believe that on foggy nights, that old lighthouse reappears and lights the night sky.
We won't spoil your trip by giving you the answer... so ask your guide when you get there.
Over the years, the federal penitentiary housed some 1,545 men serving time.
But only a handful were notorious... like George "Machine Gun"
Kelly, Al "Scarface" Capone, and Robert "The Birdman of Alcatraz"
Oh, did you know... Robert Stroud had canaries at Leavenworth
Penitentiary, but he never had any birds at Alcatraz? His real nickname
was "Bird Doctor of Leavenworth".
During your Alcatraz tour, ask about Jimmy ‘Tex’ Lucas. Who’s that you say?
He’s the guy who viciously attacked Al Capone in the shower room with half a pair of scissors... slashing the Chicago gangster numerous times.
Capone suffered a minor chest wound and shallow cuts to his hands.
So... what happened to Jimmy? Well... ask your guide.
What did the inmates do for recreation in their spare time?
And no... it wasn’t trying to get rid of one another.
Well... take the tour to Alcatraz and find out.
Are you ready? Okay... let's go!
Oh yea... be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
We hear the walk to the cell house is steep on uneven pavement. And... DON’T forget your camera.
Well, supposedly... in 1963, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy closed Alcatraz because of the increasing maintenance and operating costs.
Prisoners were transferred to other correctional facilities... leaving Alcatraz to the care of one lone custodian.