San Francisco - Alcatraz Island
Prison Tour Information
Detailed Alcatraz Virtual Tour of the Island and Prison
Alcatraz was vital to California’s history. The island near San Francisco was a fortress, a military prison, and a federal prison… and today a National Park.
We’ve listed below the highlights of Alcatraz island’s remaining buildings, in the order you are likely to see them during your visit to Alcatraz.
“You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.” Rule #5, Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations – 1934
|Visit the Alcatraz cellblock where prisoners were confined…
|The island has only one safe landing point, from which prison inmates saw their new home. The wharf, first built in 1854, has grown over the years.
|During the Federal Prison phase of the island, six guard towers were used to guard the island. Today, only one tower, at the dock stands.
|The barracks were first used to support the wharf. The building was meant for both cannons and soldiers, but the guns were obselete before the building was completed. Apartments were built on top of the fortified barracks. The armored areas meant for yesterday’s cannons are used today to house exhibits, a theater, and a bookstore.
|Guardhouse / Sally Port
|During the 1860’s, Alcatraz was the most fortified military area on the west coast. A Sally Port is an armored gate. Alcatraz’s Sally Port (1857) is the oldest building left on the island. Formerly, a drawbridge joined the sides of a dry moat so that access could be blocked. The entry way was well guarded with soldiers for anyone making it past the armored gate. The gun rooms were used for prison cells during the Civil War to house captured Confederate agents.
|Post Exchange (Ruins)
|From around 1850-1930, the island was occupied by soldiers and their families. The Post Exchange sold food and goods and included a bowling alley and gym. Prior to a consuming fire in 1970, the Exchange was used as a club / recreation hall for the prison guards.
|How to visit Alcatraz — tours, ferries, prices, schedules, planning…
|On top of the guardhouse, a Mission-style chapel was built during the 1920’s. The chapel was used as living quarters, school, and sometimes as a chapel. During the post 1930’s prison phase, the building housed prison staff.
|Warden’s House (Ruins)
|The warden’s house had incredible panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. From its construction in 1929 until the house burned down in 1970, the warden’s house’s wonderful windows looked out to freedom.
|Officer’s Quarters (Ruins)
|Three of the homes for officers — Victorian cottages — were surrounded by beautiful flowers. The foundation ruins of these cottages still stand today.
|Alcatraz was the FIRST lighthouse on the Pacific Coast — built in 1854. The base of the lighthouse housed the lightkeepers. Their jobs were to fuel the lamp and keep it clean (now electric and automated). The lighthouse was replaced in 1909, to tower above the new cellblock (84 feet in total).
Power Plant / Bakery
|The island’s self-contained power plant was located next to the bakery…
|The island stored large quantities of purified water…
Sarah writes, “Went to Alcatraz…kind of spiritual place not in a religious sense but felt like people from the past were watching me….you listen to a walkman with recordings from inmates and wardens as you walk round and I nearly had a complete anxiety attack in the solitary confinement cell …what a bastard of a place to spend a decade or too…..too many good views of the city..so close yet so far away…went on a guided walk and heard about the “great escapes” which was kind of cool….”