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Alcatraz water tower

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The restored tower in 2017. The red text is a recreation of writings created during the Occupation of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz water tower is on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, off the coast of San Francisco, California. It is located on the northwestern side of the island, near Tower No. 3, beyond the Morgue and Recreation Yard.[1] The water tank is situated on six cross-braced steel legs submerged in concrete foundations.[2][3]


The tower in 2008, in an advanced state of deterioration.

As Alcatraz had no water supply of its own, it had to import it from the mainland, brought by tug and barge.[4] During the island's military years, it was stored in ground tanks and cisterns situated on the roof of the citadel.[5] The water tower was built in 1940–41 by the Federal Bureau of Prisons,[6] after the island received a government renovations grant to supply the majority of the island's fresh water.[5]

It is the tallest building on the island, at a height of 94 feet (29 meters) with a volume of 250,000 U.S. gallons (950,000 liters; 210,000 imperial gallons) of fresh water. It was used to store potable water for drinking, water for firefighting,[3][7][8] and water for the island's service laundry facility. During the Occupation of Alcatraz, the water tower was subject to heavy graffiti by the Native Americans and has since become a cultural landmark.[3][9] Graffiti included "free Indian land -- Indians welcome."[7]

The tower has been empty since 1963 and has deteriorated, eroded by the salt air and wind. From November 2011 through April 2012, the tower was given a US$1.1 million restoration to prevent "irreparable damage and loss of important historic resources".[3] Steel components were replaced and the tower was seismically upgraded. The lead paint was sanded and the tower repainted with marine paint.[10]

The tower is the rounded symbol beyond the Recreation Yard


  1. ^ Albright, Jim (30 March 2008). Last Guard Out: A Riveting Account by the Last Guard to Leave Alcatraz. AuthorHouse. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-4343-5077-0. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Robinson, Peter B. (1 February 2004). The Tribunal. iUniverse. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-595-30754-8. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d "White Tarps To Shroud Alcatraz Water Tower During Repair Work". Bay City News. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Champion Jr, Jerry Lewis (27 January 2011). The Fading Voices of Alcatraz. AuthorHouse. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-1-4567-1488-8. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Wellman, Gregory L. (28 May 2008). A History of Alcatraz Island: 1853-2008. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-7385-5815-8. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Nolte, Carl (November 16, 2011). "No escaping it - Alcatraz water tank gets face-lift". SF Gate. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Alcatraz Water Tower". NBC Bay Area. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Jr, Jerry Lewis Champion (27 January 2011). The Fading Voices of Alcatraz. AuthorHouse. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-4567-1487-1. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Benson, Sara (1 April 2009). California. Lonely Planet. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-74104-739-4. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Rosato Jr., Joe (November 15, 2011). "Historic Alcatraz Tower Gets a Strange New Look". NBC. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 

Coordinates: 37°49′39″N 122°25′26″W / 37.82750°N 122.42389°W / 37.82750; -122.42389