Statement of Significance (as of designation - January 17, 1986):
Begun as a military fortification and the site of the first U.S. lighthouse on the Pacific Coast (1854), Alcatraz was the first official Army prison in the nation. In 1934, the facility was transferred to civilian authority and it became the repository for the most hardened criminals. Alcatraz represents the far end of the penological spectrum, designed for punishment and incarceration only, rather than rehabilitation. The prison was closed in 1963, and ten years later the island was opened to the public as the first unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.