Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

Alcatraz Island Lighthouse is a lighthouse in California, United States, on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, California. It is the oldest light station on the U.S. West Coast.


The Baltimore firm of Gibbons and Kelly was awarded the contract to build seven lighthouses in California, at Alcatraz Island, Fort Point, Point Piños, Point Loma, Farallon Island, and Humboldt Bay, and one at Cape Disappointment in Washington State. The Alcatraz Lighthouse was completed in 1853. It was lit in 1854 from a fixed, third-order Fresnel lens. In 1902 it was transferred to the Cape St. Elias Lighthouse in Alaska and replaced by a revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens, producing a white flash every five seconds.

In 1909, the present cell house was built. Since the new structure would interfere with the operation of the lighthouse, a taller 84-foot, concrete tower was built south of the original lighthouse. The original lighthouse, which had been damaged during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was eventually torn down. In 1963, the Alcatraz Lighthouse was automated by the United States Coast Guard. In 1970 a fire destroyed the warden's house, the keepers' quarters and other buildings on the island. The only remaining building is the tall cement tower equipped with a modern beacon.

Historical information from Coast Guard web site

The name of this lighthouse is derived from "alcatraces" the Spanish word for pelican. However, this island is best known as the home of Al Capone and other notorious criminals. A federal penitentiary is also on the island. This light is the oldest major navigational light on the West Coast. For over 50 years, the lighthouse survived prison breakouts, riots and burning.

  • 1906: The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 severely damaged the original lighthouse.
  • 1963: The light was automated in 1963.
  • 2000: The lighthouse is now a museum and can be toured.


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