By Steve Kovacs (Introduction by Chuck Gibson)

LOVELAND, OH (March 21, 2024) – In this edition of Fun with Maps we celebrate the date they closed an “inescapable” prison…on an island.


The United States Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island closed on March 21, 1963. 

Despite rumors that it was closing because the “inescapable” prison proved to be false, the facility was shut down after 29 years of operation for a much less intriguing reason.  It simply was too expensive to operate.

Alcatraz Island is located about one and a half miles off the coast of San Francisco.  It was originally used as a military base and was the site of the first lighthouse on the west coast. First used as a prison in the Spanish-American War, it became the infamous maximum-security site in 1934.

The island is now a National Park.  A fifteen-minute boat ride from the San Francisco pier will take you to visit the cells where criminals like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly were housed.  Besides the prison and lighthouse, there are gardens and the remains of the warden’s house.

Magnus’s 1860 panoramic view of San Francisco as it was just a bit after the California gold rush is presented here.  Alcatraz is shown in the center left.

Panoramic of San Francisco – Circa 1860 (Credit Steve Kovacs)

Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.

Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Fun with Maps here on Loveland Beacon.