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Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, United States

Thursday 02 Feb 2012

Restoration on the way for Alcatraz

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Atkins to repair crumbling penitentiary building on famous Alcatraz Island 

Atkins has been appointed by the USA’s National Park Service to undertake structural repair work to the federal prison building on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The penitentiary building dates back to 1867 before which point prisoners had been incarcerated in the basement of the onsite guardhouse. Gary Self, Senior Group Manager at Atkins, said: “Atkins has had the great opportunity to work on many of America’s National Historic Landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Hoover Dam, Faneuil Hall, and now Alcatraz.”

In supplying construction management services on the Alcatraz Historic Structures Stabilization Project, Atkins will undertake repairs to failing beams in the citadel and shower room areas that support the cellblock volumes, restore the cellhouse structural floor and associated non-structural patching, and repair salvageable beams to protect any further deterioration. Self continues: “We look forward to addressing the unique challenges of this project, such as working on an island that is only accessible by boat, with no land lines for telephone or data services. Not to mention we’re facing the cold, strong, hazardous currents of the San Francisco Bay and the penitentiary’s chilling past.”

Alcatraz Island has a rich history as a site of military activity and the incarceration of some of America’s most notorious criminals. Al Capone, Robert Stroud - AKA the Birdman of Alcatraz - Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis, Mickey Cohen and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly all served time in the federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island during its 29 years in operation. The fortress is notoriously difficult to escape from and whilst the official figure of successful escape attempts stands at zero, three inmates managed to chisel their way through the aging concrete in 1962 and create a raft from stolen raincoats to cross to land. The three prisoners have never been found and although the official reports states that the men drowned, their family members have allegedly received postcards with the escapee’s handwriting.

The prison was closed in 1963 shortly after the masterful escape attempt due to the poor condition of the building structure having been battered by salt water for many decades. For two years from 1969, Alcatraz Island was occupied by a group of Native Americans protesting various federal policies relating to Native Americans. A permanent exhibition on the occupation was opened to the public last year in the former music room in a basement cellblock.

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