Robert Franklin Stroud, nicknamed the Birdman of Alcatraz, was a convicted murderer, imprisoned in US federal penitentiaries continuously from 1909 until his death in 1963.
First incarcerated in 1909 on McNeil Island, Washington, for 12 years for manslaughter, Stroud gained a reputation for violent behavior. In 1912 he moved to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where, in 1916, he fatally stabbed a guard. A sentence of hanging for first-degree murder was later commuted to life imprisonment, which he served in solitary confinement. In 1920, Stroud reportedly found a nest of young sparrows in the Leavenworth prison yard and raised them to adulthood, starting a pastime that progressed to rearing almost 300 canaries in his cell over many years, writing two books on birds, and earning him the name ‘Birdman’.
Prison staff, frustrated with Stroud’s activities and the unsanitary cell conditions caused by the birds, eventually succeeded in transferring him to Alcatraz Island penitentiary in 1942, where, despite his nickname, he was never permitted to keep birds. The name Birdman of Alcatraz gained wide recognition following the 1955 book of the same name by Tom Gaddis, and the 1962 movie starring Burt Lancaster.
When San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts was demolished in 1963, it was rebuilt with modern construction materials over the next decade, to the same design. The only parts reused were in the exhibition hall which was rebuilt on its 1915 steel frame, and retains some of the original fireplaces and doors.
The Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Designed by architect Bernard Maybeck to resemble faux ruins inspired by Roman and Greek architecture, the Palace of Fine Arts was one of eleven exhibition palaces constructed for the event.
None of the structures were intended to be retained after the exposition, but such was the appeal of the Palace of Fine Art’s magnificent structures, it was saved from demolition. But the lack of durability in its construction materials, for the most part plaster-covered timber, saw a progressive decline in its condition until it could no longer be economically maintained and demolition was the only option.
The Presidio of San Francisco is a 1,491-acre former US Army installation in the northwest corner of the city, at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, transferred to the National Park Service when it was vacated by the military in 1994.
Today, the Presidio is a thriving urban park with a unique mix of residential communities, businesses, historic sites, recreation areas, forests, grasslands, beaches and bluffs, connected by a network of hiking and biking trails.
In 1996, after considering a sale of the Presidio, it was effectively privatized by transfer of its management to the Presidio Trust, a federal government corporation tasked with making the Presidio self-sufficient and independent of direct taxpayer support. The Presidio Trust now manages most of the park, with the National Park Service managing the coastal areas, both working in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
The area of San Francisco now known as Cow Hollow was so named because it was an area of the the city where settlers in the mid-1800s established dairy farms, attracted by the natural fresh water sources and good grazing land for cows.
The area, then known as Spring Valley, was a verdant area of meadows, natural springs, and sand hills which, by the 1880s sustained over 30 dairies supplying milk to San Francisco’s burgeoning population, by which time the name Cow Hollow was in widespread use.
San Francisco’s continued growth and changing demographics eventually drove the dairies, and their cows, out of the city, and the area was substantially redeveloped for residential use. Today, the Cow Hollow neighborhood is bounded by Lombard Street, Van Ness Avenue, Green Street, and The Presidio, and some of the original dairy farmhouses still stand among the area’s houses, shops and restaurants.
Notorious American gangster Al Capone spent 4½ years in the prison on Alcatraz Island after being transferred there in August 1934 from the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.
Capone was serving an 11-year sentence for tax evasion, during which time his mental health seriously declined due to syphilis contracted prior to his incarceration.
He spent his final year at Alcatraz on the prison’s hospital wing before being transferred in January 1939, aged 39, to the prison at Terminal Island, Los Angeles.