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What’s in your backyard? The Alcatraz of the Puget Sound!

McNeil Island Penitentiary Photo

Unless you’re a guard, prisoner, or family member of either, you haven’t seen McNeil Island Penitentiary up close and personal. Well, hold onto your ball and chains, because FICRA and the Washington State History Museum are about to introduce you to some history and famous people you haven’t learned about in school.

The prison opened as a prototype for Alcatraz in 1875, long before Washington became a state in 1889. The prison is now closed, but is currently being used by the Department of Corrections as a training facility for their Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), the correctional equivalent of SWAT. McNeil has housed some very (in)famous residents over its 136-year history. “Who?”, you ask. Well, we won’t spoil the surprise here…

Our historical “tour” of this iconic backyard icon is being provided to Fox Island residents by the Washington State History Museum on April 30th, beginning at 7:00 pm, at the Nichols Community Center. This enriching and enlightening tour of the past is slated for 45-60 minutes and well worth your time before heading up to Zogs to celebrate your weekend. The talk is open to all ages and bound to be a topic you will want to explore further. We can only seat 120, so registration is necessary (below). The talk is free but donations are always accepted to support our Community Center.

The Washington State Historical Society won a prestigious national award of excellence (The American Association for State and Local History) for their exhibit “Unlocking McNeil’s Past: The Prison, The Place, The People.” Lead curator, Gwen Whiting, will be our speaker for the evening. We also suggest the podcast, “Forgotten Prison” ( from KNKX Public Radio and the Washington State History Museum as further information after your visit.

Sign Up

Signup is now closed, but you are welcome to show up for the event if there is still room.