May 27, 2022
Chicago has a fascinating history of crime (Photo: Tamara Hansen / Getty / Bretman Archive)

For the seven members of the Northside gang who smuggled alcohol, these were not the flowers that were presented to them on February 14, 1929, in a deserted garage in Chicago, it was a barrage of bullets.

Who was behind this non-romantic move?

Rival gang leader Al Capone, head of the Chicago organization, died last month 75 years ago.

Today, a piece of the bullet-riddled wall is on display at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

The garage was bulldozed, but locals still occasionally ask people about the site.

Gangster Al Capone on a heavily guarded train that took him to federal prison.
El Capone is one of the most famous thugs of the 20th century (Photo: Batman Archive)
Aerial view of Chicago and Lake Michigan
Downtown Chicago looks very different in 1929 (Photo: Getty Images)

Another reminder of the thirst for knowledge of Chicago’s bloody era is the regularly placed trunks on Capone’s tombstone in a cemetery on the outskirts of Chicago.

It’s a thirst. Many Fedora-wearing tour guides are happy to quench their thirst.

“Chicago was the center of an era that was romanticized by people like F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby,” says Jonathan Notic, of the Chicago Prohibition Tours, which illuminates an era in American history where alcohol is effective. Was declared illegal for 13 years.

El Capone's Tomb - Part of a Mobster Tourist Tour in Chicago
The gangster died of syphilis 75 years ago (Photo: Tamara Hansen)
Sacred Cathedral in Chicago where the bully Hemi Weiss was killed.
Sacred Cathedral in Chicago where bully Hemi Weiss was killed (Photo: Tamara Hansen)

But Knotek goes deeper into exploring issues such as the impact on women’s rights.

“Before the ban, most women in Chicago’s pubs were prostitutes,” he says. “Suddenly coming there was illegal anyway, so the women were welcomed.”

I meet Knotek. Treasure PubOnce upon a time there was a Capcom under Speckie and a roommate.

“Previous offices were rooms where guardians took women,” he says, while memorabilia covering the walls of the pub include pictures of prohibited protesters armed with “we want beer” placards.

Also on tour Green door. Chicago’s oldest pub, a former Speckie, is full of architectural features from the 1920s. Why all green? “During the Prohibition, the green thing indicated a speck,” says Jonathan Nautick.

Other sites include Green Mill Jazz Club, Often by Capone. Visitors can sit in her favorite booth, chosen because it offers multiple escape routes.

Green Door Pub in Chicago - Chicago's oldest pub?  A former speci (illegal bar) - full of 1920s architectural features (greendoorchicago.com).  The green door signaled specs.
Green Door is Chicago’s oldest pub (Photo: Tamara Hansen)
Harry Kerry's Steakhouse in Chicago (harrycarays.com)
Harry Kerry’s steakhouse is in a building that was once owned by Capone’s cousin (Photo: harrycarays.com)

Hymie Weiss – the only man Capone feared – is why Holy Cathedral is featured on many Mobster Tours. The bullets that hit him in gang fights still stain the bricks.

This is my last stop. Harry Kerry’s SteakhouseIn a building owned by Capone’s cousin Frank Niti, who used it as a base for his liquor distribution business.

In the foyer, Nautik pointed to a framed charge sheet issued to Niti, and Niti’s phone book, obtained from one of the safes in one of the many brick rooms in the basement. This is usually out of bounds but features Chicago Prohibition Tours.

There are also framed clippings. “Capone thought that being bigger than life – and being in the newspapers meant protection,” says Knotek.

How ironic that he was weakened by syphilis and caught by a prostitute, Capone died of paralysis. There is no romance in it.

Chicago Prohibition Tours start at 33, prohibitiontours.com. Pendry doubles at گو 165pn in Chicago, pendry.comFlights from London to Chicago start at 440. ba.com

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