Alcatraz served as a military prison until it was acquired by the U.S. Justice Department in 1933. The lighthouse keepers worked alongside the prison until the light was automated on November 22, 1963. This is also the same year Alcatraz closed as the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. The Alcatraz Lighthouse is the oldest light station with a modern beacon and is part of the museum on the island. Although when viewed from afar, it easily looks like the tallest structure on Alcatraz. It is actually shorter than the Alcatraz Water Tower, but it lies on higher ground and makes it looks much taller. One dramatic event that was recorded by the keepers was a bloody escape attempt, known now as the Battle of Alcatraz.
The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation. It can be spotted from almost any point in San Francisco, Oakland, and the Marin Headlands. The tower is all that remains of the old station because the lighthouse keeper's dwelling was destroyed by fire in 1969 by Native American protesters. Since the lighthouse sits off shore on Alcatraz Island, the only way to get to the island is to by boat. There is a cruise service that offers ferry service for the island and tours. Tickets usually sell out weeks in advance. Alcatraz was declared a national recreational area in 1972 and was made a National Historic Landmark in 1986.