6 Fun Facts: Alcatraz Island History | Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel Blog
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The Island of Alcatraz is so shrouded in mystery, sometimes you can’t even see it! (Just kidding, that’s just Carl the Fog). This world-famous island that used to house a maximum security prison is nicknamed “The Rock,” alluding to its remote location and the way it protrudes from the waters in the San Francisco Bay. We collected some of our favorite facts (and debunked a few myths) about this historic island.

There have never been any confirmed prisoner escapes from Alcatraz

This one shocked me! With the popularity of the 1979 movie, Escape from Alcatraz, about a group of three men who used spoons to escape “The Rock,” I’m positive I’m not the only who believed this myth. Actually, 36 people have tried (and failed) to escape. But, in true Alcatraz form, three of them have never been found, nor bodies recovered, so some believe that they made have been successful.

The island was home to prisoners as early as the 1850s

When San Francisco was put on the map during the Gold Rush of the 1840s, Alcatraz was used for military prisoners. It was also used as a military prison during the Civil War. It did close its doors as a prison in 1963.

It is technically possible to swim to shore

In 1962, one inmate managed to squeeze through a window and swim to shore. Unfortunately, he was so tired by the time he reached land, that the police found him lying unconscious at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, the 1.5 mile swim is completed by many annually during the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

At any given time, there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz that included both women and children

The families of the guard staff lived on the island, of course. They were primarily housed in Building #64, or in one of the three apartment buildings. Families had their own bowling alley, a small convenience store, and soda fountain shop for the kids. Families did most of their shopping in San Francisco since the prison boat made 12 runs to the pier each day.

Until the late 1930s, there was a rule of silence

During the early years of the prison, inmates were only allowed to talk during meals and recreation periods. This rule was outlawed in the late 30s, as it was considered unjustly harsh.

(photo courtesy of @sflenz)

Alcatraz was home to several well-known criminals

Of the 1,576 prisoners incarcerated on “The Rock,” three famous prisoners stick out as previous residents. George “Machine-Gun” Kelly and Alvin Karpis (the first “Public Enemy #1”) both called Alcatraz home. The most famous prisoner, Mr. Al Capone, lived there for four and a half years.

Interested in learning more? I highly recommend visiting Alcatraz during your next stay at Loews Regency San Francisco. Too afraid to check out the fun? You can enjoy the island from afar. Did you know you can see Alcatraz Island from the hotel? It’s true!

We hope you learned something interesting about one of the most iconic lockups in the world. If you do visit Alcatraz, be sure to tag us at @LoewsRegencySF and by using the hashtag #LoewsRegencySF.

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