Friday, March 22, 2013
Escape to Alcatraz, Pt. 2
I'm all for restoration and historic preservation, but somehow, I still enjoy seeing historic sites when they are in a state of imperfect decay. History seems more alive as opposed to when a building has been repainted and spruced up as if it were brand new.
You could almost imagine the goings-on in the Recreation Yard, which was a bright beacon of hope for the men who spent most of their days behind bars.
It was stressed that despite its dark reputation, Alcatraz was a clean and well maintained facility that served good meals.
Inside the Cellhouse:
I'm not big on audio tours, but in this case, I very much enjoyed it. Having your own audio device gave a sense of isolation, which fit perfectly with the experience. Some of the voice on the tour included those of former inmates, like the four shown here.
Some of the names of the sections of the Cellhouse seemed so ironic.
Displays showed some of the athletic events that occurred in the Recreation Yard:
The dreaded D Block:
Some of the more infamous inmates, including Al Capone and Robert Stroud, aka the Birdman of Alcatraz. Ironically, Stroud conducted his famous bird studies when he was imprisoned at Leavenworth; his real nickname was "Bird Doctor of Leavenworth."
We were allowed (and encouraged) to go inside one of the cells:
The marks of bullets from a botched escape attempt are still visible:
Cells displayed some of the hobbies that the inmates dabbled in to try to keep a vestige of their humanity:
Where visitors could talk to family:
This panel talked about the infamous "escape from alcatraz," which inspired the movie by Clint Eastwood.
The phony head in the bed that fooled guards. To this day, the bodies of the escapees have never been found.
The Dining Hall; surprisingly, utensils were allowed here...but carefully counted as the inmates left.
A sample menu:
This photo showed the last inmates leaving on March 21, 1963 when the prison was closed for good. Increasing maintenance and operating costs led U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to close Alcatraz in 1963. Prisoners were transferred to other federal correctional facilities, and Alcatraz was left to the care of a lone custodian.
If you decide to visit Alcatraz, I highly recommend getting on the first tour of the day, as the Island gets more crowded as the day goes on. You can book your tour with the official Alcatraz Cruise Company.
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