Discover The Military Facility Hidden Beneath Alcatraz Penitentiary

The First Owner

the lighthouse on alcatraz island
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Before becoming a world-famous penitentiary, Alcatraz Island was owned by Julian Workman. He was a ranch owner in 1846 when Alta California governor Pio Pico gave him the island. As part of their arrangement, Workman agreed to build a lighthouse.

Workman was never able to follow through on his promise. It’s not that he couldn’t, it’s that he was never given a chance. Less than one year into his ownership California’s military governor John C. Fremont bought Alcatraz for $5,000.