cannon on hill with brick building in background
Union soldiers defending Alcatraz, circa 1864.

photo courtesy of NARA, Bradley & Rulofson Alctraz photos


Military Period

In 1850 Alcatraz was declared a military reservation by President Millard Fillmore, and by 1859 troops were permanently garrisoned at the post on Alcatraces for the defense of the Bay Area.

To learn more about the military history of Alcatraz, from 1850 to 1934. please visit the Post on Alcatraces page. For more indepth information, visit the timeline of the U.S. Army's military period.

To learn more about Fort Alcatraz' role during the Civil War, please visit the Civil War at Alcatraz page.

Interior of cellblock

photo courtey of Ilka Hartmann

U.S. Penitentiary Alcatraz (1934-1963)

Alcatraz is most famous for the 29 years it operated as a U.S. penitentiary. Learn how Alcatraz evolved from an army post that contained an army prison, into U.S. Penitentiary Alcatraz.

Alcatraz's fame due in no small part to Hollywood movies which have created their own not particurarily accurate Alcatraz, with underground tunnels and haunted dungeons - which are not based on reality.

Alcatraz is Indian Land
When the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz, they wrote  their political message  on many of the buildings.


Indians of All Tribes Occupation
In 1964, and again in 1969 American Indians - many whose tribes were being terminated by federal policy, laid claim to Alcatraz Island. Their 18 month occupation would cause a great change in federal policy towards American Indians that would save the tribes. Learn more about the very important historic occupation by Indians of All Tribes.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Alcatraz Island
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
B201 Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123


(415) 561-4900
To purchase tickets call 415-981-7625

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