The first operating lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast was on Alcatraz Island. Isolated in San Francisco Bay, the storied Alcatraz is better known as the site of the infamous prison. It was a federal maximum-security facility for only twenty-nine years, from 1934 until 1963. For a century before, it had been various iterations of military fortifications and military prisons.
As a federal prison, Alcatraz was designed to hold troublemakers from other federal prisons. It became home to notorious bank robbers and murderers, including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Rafael Cancel Miranda, who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party’s armed attack on the United States Capitol building in 1954, also spent time at Alcatraz.
The panoramic view of the close-by city of San Francisco is said to have intensified the misery of being incarcerated in Alcratraz Prison. “Baghdad by the Bay” sits only a mile-and-a-half away but is an unobtainable swim through cold, swirling currents.During its time as a federal prison, Alcatraz claimed there had been no successful escapes. Thirty-six men tried in fourteen escape attempts. Twenty-three were caught; six were shot and killed; two drowned; five were listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”
In normal current times, Alcatraz is a popular tourist site, managed by the National Park Service. In these COVID lockdown days, one can intuit the reverse of a penitentiary inmate. Sheltering in place in San Francisco, you can see Alcatraz, but you can’t get there.
As this is being written, zillow.com lists twenty homes for sale with views of Alcatraz Island. Asking prices range from $1.225 million (839 sq ft condo) to $25 million (7,000 sq ft house).
(Thanks to Mi Ae Lipe for the inspiration.)