22 January 2018

Alcatraz Island – 22 January 2018

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The United States Army started construction on Alcatraz Island in 1853. At that time the Army placed cannons at the north, south, and west sides of the island to provide gunfire at incoming enemy ships. On the summit of the island was a defensive barracks known as the Citadel. By 1861, the government designated Fort Alcatraz as the official military prison for the entire Department of the Pacific.  
In 1907, the United States Department of War decided that Alcatraz Island would no longer serve as a defensive Army fort but would be used instead as a military detention barracks. Plans were drawn for a cellhouse that could accommodate up to 600 military prisoners. The construction of the building was completed in 1912. 
The large building sited on the top of the island as seen in the above photo is the Alcatraz Cellhouse. The view is looking west.

The tower in front of the cellhouse is Alcatraz Island Lighthouse. It was the first lighthouse on the West Coast, and it became operational on 1 June 1854. The original lighthouse was damaged during the 1906 earthquake. It was replaced in 1909 with the current lighthouse. Lighthouse operators lived in houses at the base of the tower until 1963 when the Coast Guard installed, activated, and still maintains an automated lighthouse beacon at the top of the tower.

The building sited at dock-level is known as Building 64. In 1905 the army used inmate labor to add three concrete floors on top of the original dock-level brick barracks built in the 1860s. Building 64 served as quarters for soldiers assigned to prison guard duty. After the Army vacated the island, the Federal Bureau of Prisons remodeled the building into apartments for correctional officers and their families. During the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary era, this section of the island was fenced off for the security of the families.

The building with the red roof seen at the lower left of this photo was the location of the Alcatraz Guardhouse and the sally port. The building also served as a housing facility. In 1934, after the military personnel left the island, and federal prison employees arrived, the building was remodeled into housing for guards. 
The dock-level guard tower seen in this photo was constructed in 1933. This was the second of four guard towers that were built on the island. This guard tower was armed with a .30-caliber Winchester rifle with 50 rounds of ammunition, a Thompson submachine gun, a Colt .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol with three seven-round clips, three gas grenades, and two gas masks. All guards were locked inside each of the towers during their time on duty. This action was taken to ensure maximum security for each guard while occupying the guard towers.

Getting fresh water on Alcatraz has always been a problem. Drinking water was brought to the island by ship. This water tower stored the potable water; it was built in 1940-1941.

The white building is the Quartermaster Warehouse. The Electric Powerhouse smokestack rises behind the Quartermaster Building. The powerhouse was built in 1939, and all of the island’s electricity was generated within this building. Mount Tamalpais is visible in the distance. The view is looking northwest.

Here is a partial view of the electric powerhouse.

This is a view of Angel Island as seen from Alcatraz Island. The distance between Alcatraz Island and Angel Island is approximately 1.5 miles. Some people have postulated that on 11 June 1962 when three federal prisoners successfully escaped from the penitentiary, they made a getaway from Alcatraz Island by swimming to Angel Island. Within a year of their escape from Alcatraz Island, these same people suggest that the escapees arrived in Brazil. These people also suggest that after time the fugitives were able to leave Brazil and re-enter the United States unbeknownst to United States authorities.
The U.S. Government's official policy is that the three escapees died while swimming towards San Francisco; their bodies were never found. This view is looking north.

This photo shows a portion of the northern side of the main cellhouse, the Alcatraz Dining Hall, and Alcatraz Hospital.

This is an original entryway to the dockside barracks building.

A view of the lower level of the dockside barracks building.

The is the morgue. It was operational between 1910 and 1963. It is located near the center of the island.

Here is a view of a cannon with its barrel directed out of the sally port. The gun is aimed at the dockside. The weapon was loaded with anti-personnel shells that were designed to inflict maximum damage to invaders who achieved dock access to the island.  

This is a Thompson submachine gun. It was invented by John T. Thompson in 1918. This automatic weapon fired .45 caliber rounds. This particular gun was manufactured in the 1930s, and it was initially issued to guards stationed on Alcatraz Island.

This was the Warden's House. It had seventeen rooms and was built in the 1920s. The house was initially the home of the military prison commandant. 
Alcatraz became a federal penitentiary in August 1934. James A. Johnson was the first of four Federal Bureau of Prisons wardens to occupy the house. On 21 March 1963, the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closed after 29 years of operation. During the Native American Indian occupation of the island in the early 1970s, an arson fire gutted the building. 

This is a view of the remains of the Social Hall also known as the Officers' Club. It was also gutted by an arson fire in the early 1970s, during the occupation of Alcatraz Island. The picture is looking east.

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Alcatraz Island. The view is looking west.

Being able to work in prison was considered to be a privilege for an inmate. Many of the better inmates were employed at either the Model Industries Building or the New Industries Building. The inmates performed tasks such as sewing, woodworking, laundry, and building maintenance. This is the Model Industries Building.

The rectangular roof is that of the New Industries Building. The three-story building in the distance is the Model Industries Building. This view is looking northwest. Visible are Richardson Bay, Mount Tamalpais, Sausalito, and the Marin Headlands.

Here is a view of the military Parade Grounds. Ahead is Yerba Buena Island and the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The picture is looking southeast.

This is a scene of the Alcatraz Dining Hall, which is also known as the Mess Hall. This picture was taken from the prisoners Recreation Yard. The view is looking southeast.

Here is another view of the recreation yard. The Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean are observable.

This is a view of the southern side of the cellhouse, which is also the location of the Alcatraz Library.

Another view of the cellhouse and the dining hall; the water storage tank is seen on the left.

This is the main entryway to the administrative section of the prison.

A view of the inside of Cell Block D. Each of the four cell blocks (A, B, C, and D) had three levels for the housing of prisoners. The average dimension of each cell is 9 feet long x 5 feet wide x 7 feet high. Each cell was occupied by a single prisoner, and within each cell is a commode, a sink, a bed, and a small desk.

A view of a cell on the lower level of Cell Block-D. 

Another cell on the lower level of Cell Block-D. 

This picture shows a staged cell on the lower level of Cell Block-D.

This photograph shows one of the three cells used in a successful escape attempt from Alcatraz Cell Block-D. On 11 June 1962, Frank Morris along with John Anglin and Clarence Anglin carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. Go Here if you are interested in reading a fascinating summation of their escape attempt.

Here is the second cell used in the 11 June 1962 escape. The third cell is not available for viewing at this time. 

This is a view of  D-Block cells #11, #12, #13, and #14. They are four of the six solitary-confinement cells which were used to hold the most disruptive inmates. The inmates put in these cells usually spent between 3 to 19 days in solitary confinement. 

This is D-Block cell #13. 

This is D-Block cell #14.
This view is looking East.
This scene is looking southeast. The building debris strewn along the shoreline are remnants of the Bachelors' Quarters which were constructed in 1940 in response to the need for more housing. 

This is a view of Alcatraz Island as seen from Pier 39 in San Francisco. Angel Island has a prominent position in the right rear of the picture, and Tiburon is seen on the left side of the photograph. The view is looking north.

"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange 

"Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important." Henri Carter-Bresson

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." Ansel Adams

"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." Alfred Eisenstaedt

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view those photos.

   A Sony camera was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com