Being a Chicago girl, I'm well aware of the impact Al Capone had--and continues to have--on the city. In 1997, I did a round-the-world backpacking trip with a friend from college, and wherever we went--India, Egypt, Thailand, Nepal--people would say one of two things to us: "You're from Chicago! Do you know Michael Jordan? He's the greatest basketball player in the world!" or "Chicago! Al Capone! Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!" (That last bit was a simulated Tommy Gun.)
Before moving here, we lived a few miles south in Uptown, a northside neighborhood whose heyday was the 1920s. Gangster history there abounds. The Green Mill jazz club, about two blocks from our condo, is probably the most famous. It was owned, in part, by Al Capone's henchman "Machinegun" Jack McGurn. McGurn was a murderous bastard, who cut up comedian/singer Joe E. Lewis pretty badly when he refused to renew his contract with the Green Mill. The story plays out in Frank Sinatra's movie The Joker is Wild.
Anyway, I'm always amazed by the infatuation people have with Al Capone, and how they can romanticize the prohibition-era activities of his and other gangs of the time, yet complain bitterly about the gangs currently plaguing Uptown. They're pretty much the same, in my mind.
That fascination is playing out tonight over and over again on the local news, as Al Capone's House, a two-story red-brick building at 7244 South Prairie Avenue, will soon be on the market. I'll be curious to see how his notoriety will drive up the price, already estimated at $450,000. In a serious housing slump where few things in the city seem to be moving, I bet this one will sell.
Image courtesy Chicago History Museum. Original caption: Exterior view of the home of Al Capone, viewed at an angle from across the street, located at 7244 Prairie Avenue in the Greater Grand Crossing community area of Chicago, Illinois. An automobile is parked along the curb in front of the house. DN-0088054, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society.