Imagine you are told exactly when you can eat or shower and when you have to go to bed and when you must wake up. Well many of the prisoners on Alcatraz Island were treated in such a way. If you were a prisoner on Alcatraz Island, every aspect of your life would be controlled by a higher authority. If you like to have a midnight snack every now and then, that luxury would be taken away. If you like to sit around and watch TV for hours, you can forget about that too. Alcatraz has a long history of transformation as to how it came to be known as the inescapable prison island.
This reputation did not stop a handful of men to try and do the impossible and escape the island. Alcatraz, also known as "The Rock", is a well-known yet mysterious place containing many forgotten memories and lost ghosts. Though no one really knows everything that went on within the concealed walls of the old prison, it still manages to trap the interests of millions of people who visit the national park each day on the small island in the San Francisco Bay. Not only has it trapped the interests of those millions of visitors, but it has also trapped mine as well.
Discovered in 1775 by a Spanish explorer named Juan Miguel de Ayala, La Isla de los Alcatraces was nothing more than a small island inhabited by a group of pelicans from which the island acquired its name (Alcatraces means pelicans in Spanish). In 1847, the United States Government began view Alcatraz as more than just an island, but also an excellent location for a military fort; by 1853, a State of the Art military fortress was protecting the Western half of the United States against any foreign invasion.
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With the eruption of the Civil War, Alcatraz began accepting its first military prisoners in 1861. However, it wasn't until the Spanish-American War in 1898 that the United States realized that the isolation of the island made it an excellent candidate for a prison. The prison population jumped from twenty-six to 450 during the war. That number sprang once more after the famous 1906 earthquake when prisoners were transferred from many San Francisco city jails to Alcatraz.
With the island becoming more a prison and less a military fort, it was decided that a cell house would be necessary. After the construction of the cell house in 1912, "The Rock" was born. In the 1920's many inmates were allowed to own small gardens of their own. Baseball fields were created and small teams were formed. It wasn't until the 1930's that Alcatraz went through dramatic changes constituting stricter rules than ever before thus ending the days of gardening and baseball games.
In 1963, however, due to the high cost of running an island prison, Alcatraz was officially closed, never to be reopened as a prison. In 1969, a group of Native Americans claimed the island as their own but later ran into trouble with high costs just as the United States had. In 1971, their problems ended when they saw the island go up in flames, badly damaging the lighthouse and many homes that used to house the cell guards and their families. The remaining Indians left after this fire and once again, Alcatraz was abandoned. The U.
S. government decided it would be best to make Alcatraz part of the newly opened Golden Gate Park. Today, the money it attracts from its visitors each year provides the operational costs for the island. Throughout all the changes Alcatraz has went, it has retained one thing up to this very day; its deteriorating walls never cease to capture the amazement and interest of onlookers like you and I. That small, haunted, and mysterious island on the coast of San Francisco that treasures so many memories will always be known as "The Rock. "
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