History & Culture

Cellhouse menu for Christmas 1954.
Historic Christmas 1954 menu for the Alcatraz prisoners. Park Archives, GGNRA, NPS

The Fascinating History of Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz has a many-layered history: Civil War fortress, military prison, federal prison, bird sanctuary, first lighthouse on the West Coast, and the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement: These are just a few of the fascinating stories of the Rock. Alcatraz Island is a designated National Historic Landmark for its significant contribution to the nation's history.

The following links provide excellent sources for students as well as for those planning a visit and wanting to know more.

soldiers walking in front of concrete building


Learn about the military history (1850-1934), the federal penitentiary history (1934-1963) and perhaps the most influential period in the island's history, the American Indian occupation (1964 and 1969-1971) that saved the tribes--and maybe the island too.

woman and soldiers in uniform sitting at base of building


Learn about some of the famous (and not so famous) people associated with the Rock.

tarnished forks in a row


See items from the National Parks museum collection and learn about other available resources for in-depth research.

workers on roof of building near water


Learn how the National Park Service preserves and rehabilitates the island's buildings and structures for future generations.




Last updated: August 30, 2023

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Mailing Address:

Alcatraz Island
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
201 Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123


United States Park Police Dispatch: Non-Emergency: 415-561-5505 Emergency: 415-561-5656

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