Lost New England Goes West: Main Cell Block, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz guard Carl T. Perrin, on duty on March 21, 1963, the last day of the prison’s operation. Photo taken by Keith Dennison, courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The scene in 2015:

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The corridors between the cell blocks at Alcatraz were named after major streets; this particular one was known as Broadway, and it was the central corridor in the facility, separating blocks B and C. The block had three levels of cells, and most of the inmates were kept in either B or C blocks, with the more isolated D block being used for isolation and punishment, like solitary confinement.

Because Alcatraz was intended for the nation’s most problematic federal prisoners, the prison enforced many strict regulations. Each cell housed only one person, and conversations between inmates were strictly limited to discourage them from coordinating escapes. “Lights out” was at 9:30 P.M., and, unless they worked a prison job, the inmates spent nearly 23 hours a day in their cells, passing the time by reading, smoking, and occasionally playing musical instruments or making artwork. Images of the interior of the cells can be seen in this earlier post and this one.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Clarence Anglin’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #152 in Alcatraz, shortly after Clarence Anglin’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

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Clarence Anglin and his brother John were convicted bank robbers whowere both incarcerated at Alcatraz. As explained in more detail in the previous post, they participated with their friend Frank Morris in what was possibly the only successful escape attempt from the prison. The first photo was taken in Clarence’s cell shortly after the escape was discovered, and the second one shows the cell as it appears today, complete with a replica of the dummy head that Anglin created to hide their disappearance.

In over 50 years since their disappearance, there have been no confirmed sightings of the three men, nor were their bodies ever discovered, which has led to plenty of speculation and reported sightings ever since. Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence to surface recently, though, is a 1975 photo that was released last year, which supposedly shows the Anglin brothers in Brazil. Despite the resemblance to the escaped convicts, it remains inconclusive, but it is certainly possible that the men, now in their mid-80s, could still be alive and hiding in South America.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Frank Morris’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #138 at Alcatraz, seen shortly after Frank Morris’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

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The prison at Alcatraz is probably best known for the June 11-12, 1962 escape attempt by Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris. The three men, plus a fourth one who ultimately did not participate in the escape, began planning six months earlier. With Morris as the ringleader, they used discarded saw blades, spoons, and an improvised drill to slowly chip away at the corroded concrete around the ventilation openings in their cells. On the other side of the wall is a utility corridor, and once they had escaped from their cells they climbed up to the roof, constructed a makeshift raft, and left the island.

To prevent their absence from being noticed, they had created papier-mâché heads and left them on their pillows. As a result, the escape was not noticed until the following morning. The first photo here was taken in Morris’s cell, probably only a few days after the escape. The men were never found, and despite the publicity at the time and in the years since, there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest either that they drowned in the frigid waters or successfully made it to shore.

Less than a year later, the prison closed, not because of the escape attempt, but because of the exorbitant cost of running a prison on a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Today, the property is administered by the National Park Service, and the old prison is now open for tours. The cells of the escaped inmates, including Morris’s as seen here, have been furnished to show how they would have appeared on the night of the escape.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Samuel Hartwell House, Lincoln, Mass.

The Samuel Hartwell House, in Lincoln, Mass, in 1961. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The scene in 2013:

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Located along the Battle Road in the Minuteman National Historical Park, the Samuel Hartwell House was buit in the 1700’s, and was occupied by Samuel Hartwell during the battles of Lexington and Concord, when the British forces marched to and from Concord past the house.  The house was used as a restaurant from 1929 until 1968, when it burned.  All that remained was the central chimney and the cellarhole; the National Park Service later built the frame and roof in the style of the original building.