Buildings such as the former Post Exchange, Officer’s Club, Industrial Buildings, and the Warden’s Home no longer contain interior structures or roofs and are extremely dilapidated. These buildings were not maintained because they are only tangentially associated with prisoners’ lives on the island. Most prisoners did not see these buildings.
The Storehouse and Barracks have been renovated to serve tourists’ interests. Today, the Storehouse is largely unseen by the average tourist; as in the past, the building is still used by employees as a maintenance warehouse, and no effort is made to conceal its modern-day function. The Barracks have also been renovated, but the building no longer serves its original purpose. The former Barracks now house a theater, a gift shop, and many galleries.
Unlike some of Alcatraz’s buildings, the island’s landscaping remains consistent with its state during the federal penitentiary era. Prisoners maintained the gardens facing the Golden Gate. To this day, these gardens remain manicured with the original species of plants. Similarly, the officers’ gardens are maintained in their authentic state. In contrast, aside from designated garden space, the rest of the vegetation on the island is wild and unkempt, as they were during the penitentiary era. Furthermore, plants have overtaken dilapidated buildings, and vines creep along crumbling walls.
The emphasis on the federal penitentiary is so pervasive that information provided to tourists ignores the other periods in Alcatraz’s history. No information is available on the cellhouse audio tour about its role a as a military prison from 1912 to 1934. The 19-month American Indian occupation of the island in 1969-70, signs of which are scattered throughout the island, is left largely unexplained. All of the information provided in the audio tour and on the informational placards addresses only the island’s role as a federal penitentiary.
-Sally, Madelyne, Josh