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One of the most famous landmarks in North America is Alcatraz Island, over a mile offshore from San Francisco, California, which I visited last week during Spring Vacation.

Alcatraz is well-known for being a prison, but the first use of the island was for a lighthouse. Alcatraz originally belonged to Mexico, but was bought by John C. Fremont to become part of California. It was then converted into a military fortress, and was later used to hold Confederate sympathizers during the American Civil War.

In 1934, Alcatraz was made a federal prison, designed to hold prisoners that caused trouble in other prisons. Alcatraz at one point even held Al Capone and Whitey Bulger! Alcatraz was the prison for inmates who caused trouble in other prisons, and was designed to hold the most dangerous criminals. Alcatraz is also widely known for the escape attempts that occurred during its history. For instance, on May 2, 1946, six inmates tried to escape and caused the Battle of Alcatraz, which resulted in five deaths and defeat for the inmates. In June of 1962, four inmates successfully escaped from Alcatraz in an improvised inflatable raft. The fate of those inmates remains unknown. In 1969, after Alcatraz ceased to be a prison, a group of Native Americans occupied the Island to protest federal activities related to American Indians, and would remain until 1971. Alcatraz is an amazing journey of learning, and I learned much about “the Rock” during my visit.

Alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963, but it still grasps a legacy like few other prisons in America and was made a National Historic Landmark in 1986.