WIN: Al Capone’s House Sells for Renovation

Al Capone House, 7244 S. Prairie Avenue, August 2018. Photo Credit: Google Maps

After a few months and dozens of offers later, the Al Capone’s house located at 7244 S. Prairie Avenue sold for $226,000, more than twice its asking price. While the buyer’s plans are not known, the expectation is that the home will be renovated.

“We had like 80 offers on it,” listing agent Ryan Smith of Re/Max Properties told the Chicago Tribune. “We had a lot of press on it, so I think that helped it out.” (Goldsborough, Chicago Tribune 4/10/19)

“Legend says that a tunnel ran from the house to the garage,” Smith told Crain’s Chicago Business. He also said he’s “pretty sure it’s true from a door that remains in the basement, although the tunnel, if there was one, has been filled in.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 2/8/19)

While it’s an attractive classic Chicago-style, brick two-flat, clearly the house’s connection to Al Capone was a major factor in the high level of interest around its sale. In fact, the listing was reported by the USA Today, the LA Times, London’s Daily Mail, Fox News and many other news outlets.

Capone lived in this house through the Roaring Twenties during the time when he ran the Chicago Outfit until he was arrested in 1929. His wife and mother continued to live in the house until his mother’s death in 1952. “Al Capone’s wife, Mae, and mother, Teresa, signed the deed to purchase the brick two-flat on August 8, 1923, when the building was 18 years old. They paid $5,500.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 2/8/19)

At the age of 20, Al Capone arrived in Chicago in 1920 and went on to become one of the most infamous gangsters in American history. He co-founded and ran the Chicago Outfit which dominated the organized crime scene in Prohibition-era Chicago between 1925 and his arrest in 1929. Known as Scarface , Big Al and Public Enemy Number One, Capone was responsible for much gangland violence, including the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Capone was finally brought to justice for income-tax evasion in 1931 and served nearly eight years in prison, mostly at Alcatraz in San Francisco but also in Philadelphia and Atlanta. He died in 1947. During his lifetime, Capone captured the public imagination, and his gangster persona has appeared in countless movies and books.

The house is mentioned in several news reports on Capone during the 1920s. On May 18, 1929, after Capone was put in a Philadelphia jail on a gun charge, the Chicago Tribune published a story headlined “Sister tells how good Al is to his folks,” which included an interview with Teresa and Mafalda in their Prairie Avenue living room “with its soft lights and velvet rugs.” The bedroom of Al’s youngest sister, Mafalda, the article said, “is luxuriously furnished, but in good taste. There are Dresden candelabra mirror lights (and) excellent tapestries, between which a golden crucifix is suspended.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 2/8/19)

“Built about 1909, the two-flat, which sits on an extra-wide lot, has had several owners since the Capones, and in 1989, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council both rejected bids to make the house an official landmark.” (Goldsborough, Chicago Tribune 4/10/19)

Preservation Chicago encourages the City of Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks to reconsider their decision and make the Al Capone home a designated Chicago Landmark. In addition to recognizing and protecting this important connection to part of Chicago’s history, there is a strong economic value tied to tourism.

The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is a large historic prison in Philadelphia, and one of its most popular attractions is Al Capone’s cell complete with its oriental rugs and oil paintings, where he served time for less than a year. Over 250,000 tourists visit the site annually, and the foundation operating the historic site has raised over $16 million in preservation funding.

Al Capone served 4-1/2 years at Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay and his Cell 133 is an important part of the Alcatraz tour. Capone is so popular that the prison hospital room where his health deteriorated and even the old prison shower room is highlighted where he is reported to have gone to play banjo, and some claim that you can still occasionally hear the strumming of his banjo. Alcatraz is one of America’s most popular national park sites and has more than 1.4 million visitors annually.

Yet in Chicago where Al Capone lived during the period when he led one of the most notorious organized crime syndicates, his home isn’t a Designated Chicago Landmark and has no protection against demolition. Tourism is a powerful economic driver and the landmark designation of the places, spaces and home of both famous and infamous Chicagoans would help to drive increased tourism.

The St. Valentine’s Massacre occurred at the SMC Cartage Company garage located at 2122 North Clark Street in Lincoln Park. The site became a morbid tourist curiosity in the 1930s and the building was demolished in 1967 partially in an effort to finally erase its violent history. There is nothing at the location today that would suggest its infamous past, yet the bricks from the old garage building have been reassembled and is one of the most significant artifacts in the permanent collection at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. The museum’s opening day was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Massacre. The Mob Museum draws approximately 350,000 visitors per year, has over 120 employees and results in over $20 million being spend annually in downtown Las Vegas.

Chicago currently has a number of crime tours which explore Chicago’s seedy underbelly including the Private Al Capone Gangster Tour, Chicago Prohibition Tour, Chicago Crime and Mob Tour, Gangsters and Ghosts Tour in Chicago, Sin and Suds Beer Tour, Chicago Night Crimes Tour, Private Chicago Mafia and Blues Evening Tour, Chicago Crime and Pizza Walk and others.

Additional Reading
Al Capone family home in Park Manor sells for $226,000 — double the asking price , Bob Goldsborough, Chicago Tribune, 4/10/19

Al Capone’s two-flat, a recent foreclosure, for sale;The brick residence where the gang boss, his mother and his wife lived in the 1920s is coming on the market at $109,900, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 2/8/19



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