Al Capone’s Chicago: 5 Sites He Actually Knew
- February 13, 2019
Al Capone’s Chicago is a place of myth as much as fact. Oddly, it’s often reminded me of George Washington. Every sufficiently old building east of the Alleghenies claims that Washington slept there . Similarly, dozens of old buildings in Chicago seem to claim that Capone drank and/or killed someone there. With the 90th anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre right around the corner, we thought it was worth finding out which extant buildings were really a part of Al Capone’s Chicago. Plus, if you want to visit these sites several of them have some pretty awesome historic architecture, too.
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1. The Green Mill
Let’s kick things off with a venue that still looks, feels, and (most importantly) sounds like it did in Al Capone’s Chicago. The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is the beating heart of Uptown’s historic entertainment district. Chicagoans have enjoyed drinks and music here since 1907, when it opened as a roadhouse. Capone henchman “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn ran the joint during Prohibition. We have frequently designed custom tours that visit this famous juke joint.
According to legend, Capone’s favorite booth has unobstructed views of both doorways. If he (or his men) saw trouble entering, they could scurry into the tunnels below the bar, which ferried them across the street to safety
The other, bloodier, legend concerns the entertainer Joe E. Lewis . McGurn had Lewis under contract to perform at the Green Mill, but a rival gang’s club, the New Rendezvous, offered more money. Lewis planned to make the switch, so McGurn sent enforcers to Lewis’s residence. They proceeded to cut his throat and tongue in the doorway of his Lincoln Park hotel room. Amazingly, Lewis survived and even resumed his singing career after Capone paid for his recovery bills. I shared this bloody story in a live-streamed tour a while back – would be more than happy to create more custom content like that for you!
2. Exchequer Restaurant & Pub
If The Green Mill is one of the most famous sites from Al Capone’s Chicago, then the Exchequer Restaurant & Pub may be one of the most under-sung. Located below the ‘L’ tracks near the Adams/Wabash station, this family-owned restaurant was the site of a Capone-run speakeasy during Prohibition. Indeed, according to the staff, a door in the dining room leads to paved-up underground tunnels. Capone used the tunnels to avoid any heat. Seems like a pattern for that guy.
The 226 Club , named for the address of 226 S. Wabash, operated as a legitimate restaurant in the 1920s. That was only the front, of course. Capone supplied the illegal booze for thirsty downtown workers in the back of the establishment. Incredibly, the original décor that Capone gazed upon is still there. A contemporary drop ceiling hides the Moorish Revival architectural decoration from sight.
3. Blackstone Hotel
A local landmark known for its glamorous facilities and ties to Presidential politics , the Blackstone Hotel was apparently also a haunt of Alphonse Capone’s. According to the hotel’s own history, Capone frequented the hotel barbershop because it was windowless. No chance for an assassin to do his dirty work with no lines of sight.
Fans of Chicago gangster movies will find another of the Blackstone’s spaces familiar. The eye-popping architectural detail of the Crystal Ballroom is where the iconic baseball bat scene from The Untouchables was filmed. Of course, Capone didn’t actually beat rivals to death in that gorgeous room. He did it elsewhere. The Crystal Ballroom is the site where “Lucky” Luciano hosted a gangster’s convention in 1931, though. So it’s got that going for its gangland reputation.
4. Capone Family Home
Al Capone stayed in many different locales across Chicagoland. Such is the vagrant life of a gangland kingpin. When not galivanting around, he stayed at the original Capone family home with his mother, Theresa, and his wife, Mae. The family had relocated here in the 1920s from New York as Al’s particular career path led him to the Windy City. This brick two-flat, with its modest architecture, is at 7244 S. Prairie Ave. Today it’s a private residence, so it’s best not to go ringing the doorbell unless you’re looking to buy it .
Tucked onto a sleepy street in South Side’s Park Manor neighborhood, the Capone home is a completely unpretentious two-flat. Capone’s many customers lived in similar homes all across the working class “ white ethnic ” Chicago neighborhoods. For all the associations with glamour and guts, this humble spot may best epitomize Al Capone’s Chicago.
5. Bert Kelly’s Stables and the Medinah Athletic Club
I saved the spots I know best for last. The Shriners constructed the opulent Medinah Athletic Club , now an InterContinental Hotel , in 1929. The over-the-top Orientalist tower included everything from banquet halls to a dirigible dock. During the few years that the club was open as a private club, Capone visited to play rounds of putt putt at the tower’s indoor miniature golf course. I always find it funny, even charming, to imagine this infamous mobster puttering around, working on his short game among this magnificent architecture above the Mag Mile.
Bert Kelly’s Stables operated out of a small building at Wabash and Hubbard from 1915 to 1930. The only black and tan club on the north side of Chicago, its biggest claim to fame advertising that the band played “jazz” music, the first documented usage of the term to describe that musical style. Unsurprisingly, the Stables was one of the hottest speakeasies in Al Capone’s Chicago.
I’ve told the story of these buildings countless times on our old walking tours. These days, if you want the full scoop, you can reach out to book a custom private tour .
Little is Left of Al Capone’s Chicago
As I mentioned at the top, Capone long ago achieved a mythic status here in Chicago. Even while he was alive, the press attention created a larger-than-life persona for the man who’d been a two-bit hoodlum just years prior. Yet, as I wrote in a previous blog post on the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre , surprisingly few buildings remain which directly connect to his actions here in Chicago.
Two dynamics drive this particular historical absence. First, the city has tried very hard to scrub this bloody history from its popular legacy. Mayor Daley II even tried to block the gangster tours from having downtown storefronts. Which is entirely understandable, even if it’ll likely never really work. People just love their gangster stories and movies too much.
Second, Capone’s clients, henchmen, and opponents were primarily working-class and of immigrant stock. Most of their haunts, which were the old working class Italian, German, Polish, and Irish Chicago neighborhoods, have disappeared. Gentrification , demolition , or assimilation transformed these areas over the past century. Even the little bars which became neighborhood institutions shutter all the time . These processes change a city, often dramatically, and wipe the slate clean every few generations. Considering that, it’s no surprise that we have so little of Al Capone’s Chicago physically present in the architecture of today.
– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide
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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide
There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.
With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.
Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.
Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide
Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.
Content Manager and Tour Guide
Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.
Executive director and tour guide, book a chicago event.
The Original Chicago Gangster Tour
- Hour Glass Duration: 2 Hours
Visit Chicago’s Most Infamous Locations on Our Gangster Tour
We are Untouchable Tours – Chicago’s Original Gangster Tour. We have been providing a top-notch educational and historically accurate tour for over 35 years!
Our guides present an accurate account of the crimes and activities that were going on in Chicago during the 1920’s and ’30’s (Prohibition). You will hear the exploits of Capone, Moran, Dillinger and the rest of the boys on this unforgettable Chicago crime tour ! Guests remain on the bus for the duration of the tour. Some sites included are the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the Biograph Theatre, and the Holy Name Cathedral.
The tour is educational yet fun. Our Gangster Guides are professional actors and bring the world of Prohibition and the 1920s to life. Our Untouchable Tour Gangster Guides take on the persona of gangsters and mobsters and will bring the tour to life!
Meet our Gangster Bus at the corner of Clark and Ohio Street in front of the McDonald’s.
Guests should arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled tour time and will be checked in by the tour guide. Tours will leave promptly at tour time.
Guests remain on the bus for the duration of the tour.
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Al Capone gangster tour of Chicago
Where: Chicago, Illinois, Midwest USA When: 1920s History: Lawless ground of violent crime, shootings, and gang warfare run by the notorious Al Capone Best sights: St. Valentine’s Massacre site, Capone’s moonshine brewery and spot where John Dillinger met his match to the FBI
1920s Chicago: a city fuelled by crime, lawlessness, alcohol, and the strains of wild jazz music. In January 1920, the Volstead Act was made a national statute, prohibiting the consumption of alcohol everywhere. Instead of inspiring the civic obedience its pious enforcers envisaged, Prohibition increased crime greatly by igniting the bootlegging moonshine and beer wars fought by the Chicago gangs. The biggest and most notorious gangster of them all was Al Capone.
Who was Al Capone
Capone was born in Brooklyn , New York in 1899 into a rough neighbourhood. At school he joined two gangs: the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty Thieves Juniors . He quit school at fourteen to dedicate most of his adult life to the criminal fraternity, joining the Five Points gang in Manhattan, and working as a barman and bouncer in gangster Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn . Here he received the wounds that gave him the nickname “ Scarface “.
After killing two rival gang members in New York, he arrived in Chicago in 1919 to let things back in New York cool down and set up home at 7244 South Prairie Avenue . In Chicago he became the protégé of gangster John Torrio , becoming his business partner after just three years and taking over the racket when Torrio was run out of town. Capone ruled the city’s illegal vice network – comprising of brothels, speakeasies, gambling halls, race tracks, breweries, and nightclubs – between 1925 and 1930. His underground empire was rumoured to have netted an income of $100 million per year. He was run out of town to Florida in 1928. Capone was eventually caught by a bunch of determined Federal Agents, known as the ‘ Untouchables ‘, led by Eliott Ness, who procured to convict Capone on a simple charge of tax evasion in 1931. He died of syphilis in Miami, Florida in 1947.
Take a Gangster Tour of Chicago
Today, you can take in the history of Chicago’s seedy past with an Untouchable Gangster Tour . The tours, which run every day and take two hours, are led by guides wearing gangster suits and talking the lingo. For $24 you’ll be ushered on board an old school bus that’s been painted black to make it look like an old gangster car. The guides are funny but also extremely knowledgeable. You can take in the sights like Cicero Restaurant where Capone had a speakeasy; Al Capone’s brewery; Holy Name Cathedral , site of an assassination; Chinatown – Capone’s area with the church where he prayed, his first place of work, and where he first shot a gangster; the Sicilian neighbourhood , and the site of the St. Valentine Day’s Massacre.
Top Gangsta Sites in Chicago
St. Valentine’s Massacre Garage
2122 N. Clark Street is the site of Capone’s most notorious killing. On February 14th 1929, four of Capone’s men, two dressed as police, went into a garage which was the liquor headquarters of rival “Bugs” Moran’s North Side gang. Moran’s men, thinking it was a police raid, dropped their guns and put their hands against the wall. Capone’s gang leaded them with 150 bullets killing seven men, though Moran was in safety across the road. Capone had a watertight alibi – he was in Florida that day. City officials – reluctant to celebrate their dark past – have removed all signs of the garage’s existence and today the site is a fenced garden.
The Shoenberg Brewery is a magnificent old, brownstone building. In 1927 there were 30,000 ‘ speakeasies ‘ (so called from ‘speaking easy’ so that cops couldn’t hear) in the United States – twice the number of legal bars before the era of prohibition. Shoenberg was where Capone’s gang stored and brewed liquor to supply to the speakeasy racket.
Red Lion Pub
Chicago’s other 1930s outlaw was John Dillinger , notorious bank robber, murderer, and the nation’s public enemy number one – according to the FBI at the time. Every year in July, curious anoraks assemble to commemorate the death of this alternative folk hero outside the Biograph Theatre where he was betrayed to FBI agents by Romanian brothel-keeper Anna Sage . The agents took their cue to shoot Dillinger on spotting Anna’s striking red dress as she led him out of the cinema at 10.30pm on July 22nd 1934. During the commemoration, a procession leads to the very spot where Anna Sage and her girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, accompany an oblivious John Dillinger out of the cinema that fateful night. The event is replayed and re-enacted accurately, including the match lit by Special Agent Melvin Purvis which alerted fellow agents of the outlaw’s exit. The event’s highlight is the ritualistic pouring of beer over the exact spot Dillinger fell to the FBI’s bullets.
Untouchables Gangster Tour Take a gangster tour of Chicago
Tommy Gun’s Garage Although prohibition has long gone, it hasn’t been forgotten. A great way to relive the experience is to visit the Tommy Gun’s Garage, at 2114 S. Wabash in Chicago, a gangster and flappers revue. You’ll have to give the secret password to get it, there’s a police raid in the middle of the show, and you can dance the Charleston, 20s style.
Words by Marie-Laure Vigneron
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The 11 best crime tours of Chicago
Explore the seedy underbelly of Chicago on these fascinating crime tours
Chicago is well known for its towering architecture, amazing restaurants and beautiful beaches , but the city also has a notorious history of Prohibition-era organized crime and violence. Some of Chicago’s most beautiful streets have dark pasts, and you can explore the oftentimes grisly history on a Chicago crime tour. Guides unearth the city’s darkest stories, and some of them even make stops at local restaurants and bars to help set the scene. While the tours may be a bit eerie, some can be experienced on your own schedule, whether in-person or virtually. Experience Chicago's history hidden in plain sight on the best Chicago crime tours.
RECOMMENDED: Check out the full guide to the best Chicago tours
This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines .
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Best Chicago crime tours
1. Chicago Crime and Mob Tour
Follow in the footsteps of infamous gangsters like charming bank robber John Dillinger and Polish mobster Hymie Weiss on this bus tour. You’ll hear stories about the who’s who of Chicago organized crime, drive by a few murder locations and spot the historic courthouse where many criminals were thrown in the clink.
2. Untouchable Tours' Original Gangster Tour
For more than 30 years, Untouchable Tours has been driving tourists back and forth across the city—not to see sights like the museum campus or the Willis Tower, but instead to see the staircase in front of a church that’s covering up bullet holes and the empty lot where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place. The two-hour tour features guides that take on the persona (and snappy garb) of ’20s gangsters. Guides tell the tales of prohibition-era Chicago and what it was like when gangsters like Al Capone, Bugs Moran and Hymie Weiss walked the streets.
3. Gangsters and Ghosts Tour in Chicago
The towering skyscrapers and shining facade of Cloud Gate might make the Loop seem glitzy and glamorous, but it was once a hotspot for vice. In the ’20s and ’30s, this nabe was the epicenter of bootlegging and gangbanging in Chicago. Take a walking tour through the area to spy speakeasies, secret underground tunnels and maybe even a ghost or two.
4. Vice, Crime and Gangsters in Chicago: A Self-Guided Audio Tour
There are endless upsides to taking tours of a city, but there are downsides as well—most notably, not being able to explore at your own pace. That’s not the case with the self-guided Vice, Crime and Gangsters in Chicago tour. The 31-stop audio tour starts at the Dusable Bridge and winds its way through notorious locations in the Loop and River North, including Chicago’s first vice district and the site of the Lager Beer Riot. It’s narrated by professor, urban historian and former journalist Richard Junger, who has written books on Chicago history.
5. Chicago Night Crimes Tour
See the sites of grisly killings under the dark of night on this evening bus tour. You’ll visit the Biograph Theater where Dillinger met his end, the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and other infamous locations. The bus even stops at a few historic watering holes like Harry Caray's so you can raise a glass to the city's dearly departed criminals.
6. Lincoln Park Hauntings Ghost Investigation Tour
On the surface ghost tours and crime tours are two separate entities. But how does one become a ghost? Death. And how does someone’s death become notable enough to end up on a tour? It’s got to have some sort of criminal element, right? This ghost investigation tour is led by a paranormal investigator who takes guests through some of the eeriest locales in Lincoln Park, including the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. It also offers an opportunity to use paranormal activity-detecting equipment to help you determine if you just saw a ghost or a very exhausted DePaul student.
7. Private Al Capone Gangster Tour
Al Capone’s trademark look – thick eyebrows, jaunty hat, heavy overcoat and a cigar hanging from his lips – became the basis of the stereotype of the mafia man. Capone got his start in New York as a member of the Five Points Gang before founding the Chicago Outfit and wreaking havoc on the Midwestern city. Follow in his nefarious footsteps on this tour around the city in a private town car – in true mafioso style.
8. Chicago Prohibition Tour
Speakeasies might be a cutesy drinking trend today, but during Prohibition, they were downright seedy establishments full of corruption and crime. This boozy tour visits four historic bars that still serve Prohibition-era cocktails. Sip old-school drinks as you learn how organized crime outfits built their businesses on booze.
9. Private Chicago Mafia and Blues Evening Tour
After a long night of making dirty deals and plotting the downfall of their enemies, Chicago mobsters used to unwind with some booze and live music at a mafia-friendly bar. You’ll do the same on this private guided tour that hits several historic landmarks before stopping for a drink at a bar formerly owned by Capone himself.
10. The Devil in the White City Tour
In addition to a thriving mob community, Chicago was also home to one of the country’s first known serial killers: H. H. Holmes. The insurance scammer and con man lured hundreds of people to the three-story hotel that would later be known as the Murder Castle: a labyrinth of trap doors, peepholes, dead-end stairways, gas chambers and crematorium that he used to murder his victims and dispose of their remains. To this day, authorities still don’t know how many people he might have killed. Learn the disturbing facts of the case on a Weird Chicago walking tour.
11. Sin and Suds Beer Tour
Booze and crime go hand in hand—especially during Prohibition, when mobsters made a killing running bootlegging operations and underground speakeasies. Discover the deep-seated connection between beer and vice on this tour of several Chicago watering holes, including the bar that holds the oldest liquor license in the city. $62
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Watch CBS News
A Guide To Al Capone's Chicago
February 23, 2011 / 2:03 PM CST / CBS Chicago
Most of Al Capone's old haunts have vanished. Chicago's elected leaders have taken care to wash away most of the evidence connecting the city to the man known as Scarface, history's most notorious gangster. But if you know where to look, you can still catch a glimpse of Capone and the members of his outfit. You can also sample his spaghetti marinara and knock back a few drinks at some of his favorite bars. Tell the man at the door Snorky sent you.
Jonathan Eig is the best-selling author of three biographies and the creator of the Chicago Gangland Tour , an app for the iPhone and iPad. His latest book, Get Capone , is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Chicago.
4802 N. Broadway Chicago, IL (773) 878-5552 www.greenmillchicago.com
This funky nightclub dates to 1907, and the décor is little changed. Al Capone probably didn't spend a lot of time here, but his top killer, Machine Gun Jack McGurn, had an ownership stake in the Green Mill, and Capone no doubt dropped in. Today, some of the best jazz musicians in the world play for much friendlier management. A picture of Al Capone sits behind the bar, and a trapdoor leads to a maze of underground tunnels.
Fox's Beverly Pub
9956 S. Western Ave Chicago, IL (773) 239-3212 www.foxsrestaurant.com
Back in the 1950s, Al Capone's sister, Mafalda, ran a delicatessen at this address. The sandwiches were killer. When she decided to retire in 1964, she turned the place over to the Fox family, and the Foxes turned it into a family-style restaurant that manages to be both Irish and Italian at the same time, a place with great pizza and terrific corned beef. Now, they've got a chain of four restaurants in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Plainfield and Orland Park. The Capones would be proud.
Tufano's Vernon Park Tap
1073 W. Vernon Park Place Chicago, IL (312) 733-3393 www.tufanosrestaurant.com
The smell of garlic hits you before your turn on the block. This family-style restraunt, loaded with locals, has only been around 60 years. But its connection to Capone goes back to the 1920s. The owners don't like to talk about, but when pressed they'll admit that the restaurant's founder, Joseph DiBuono, served as Capone's personal chef. Is the eggplant parmigiana still made the way Capone liked it? Who knows? But it's dangerously good.
3714 S. Halsted Ave. Chicago, IL (773) 376-6332
Schaller's got its name because, during Prohibition, they ran a hose to the nearby Ambrosia Brewery and pumped the beer into the bar. The Schallers ran the place then and they run it now. They've got great stories. They've got cold beer. They've got prime rib and pot roast and low prices. And they've got the White Sox game on the TV. If you want a taste of the real Chicago, then and now, this is the place to go.
Renaissance Blackstone Hotel
636 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL (312) 447-0955 www.marriott.com
They say Al Capone got his shoes shined here. Maybe so. But one thing's for sure: This recently remodeled hotel evokes the swagger of the gangster age with a handsome dash of modernity. They even offer a "Good to Be a Gangster" package, which includes tickets for a gangland bus tour, a copy of "The Untouchables" DVD, and an Outlaw Graffiti Cocktail. And if you slip the concierge a small gratuity, they'll throw in a signed copy of my book. Because that's the Chicago way.
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Chicago Gangster Tours
Explore The World of Chicago Gangsters
The fascination with Chicago's infamous gangsters continues today despite the height of the gangster culture having taken place long before World War II. Here are some ways you can take a self-led or group Chicago gangster tour and immerse yourself in the world of the likes of Al Capone and John Dillinger .
The Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue on Chicago's North Side is the infamous site where, in 1934, FBI agents lay in wait for gangster and bank robber, John Dillinger. Dillinger was gunned down as he was exiting from a movie—an on-the-nose gangster movie— because he drew a gun on the agents. Now home to the Victory Gardens Theater , the exterior of the Biograph was temporarily restored to its former glory for the filming of the Johnny Depp biopic Public Enemies .
- Address: 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery
Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery has the honor of being the final resting place of the most notorious of Chicago gangsters, Al Capone . The cemetery is just outside Chicago in west suburban Hillside off the I-290 expressway. Besides Capone, there are other gangsters from the era buried there like "Deany" O'Banion and the "Terrible" Genna brothers.
- Address: 1400 S. Wolf Rd., Hillside, Ill.
- Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Tommy Gun's Garage
Tommy Gun's Garage is a unique interactive dinner theater set in the Prohibition-era . The entire space is decorated as a 1920s "speakeasy" and features a sit-down dinner as well as a musical show with "gangsters" and "flappers", performing tunes from composers of the era like George Gershwin and Cole Porter. The cheese factor is high, but if you can let your inhibitions down a bit, it makes for a fun time.
- Address: 2114 S. Wabash Ave.
- Phone: 312-225-0273
- Tickets: $60 - $70 per person
Chicago Union Station
Union Station, a hub for the Metra and Amtrak rail lines, is known for the famous shootout scene in the movie The Untouchables . And while the incident was entirely made up by Hollywood—especially the "baby carriage" nod to The Battleship Potemkin —Chicago gangster fact and fiction are so blurred at this point it's made it a stopping point on a tour of "gangster history."
- Address: Canal Street between Adams and Jackson
Valentine's Day Massacre Site
On Feb. 14, 1929, seven gangsters were shot and killed at a garage in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood in what became known as the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." While it was never proven, it's commonly believed that the men were murdered by members of Al Capone's gang, or hit men hired by Capone. The killers tricked the gangsters into letting them in by dressing as police officers. The main intended target, "Bugs" Moran, escaped injury when the "go ahead" signal was mistakenly given early and Moran had not arrived at the garage yet. Unfortunately, a visit to the site is just to have an "I was there" moment, as the original building is long gone.
- Address: 2122 N. Clark St.
Chicago Untouchable Tours
If a guided tour is more your thing, then consider Untouchable Tours, which bills itself as "Chicago's Original Gangster Tour." You'll go on a two-hour driving tour in a jet black school bus and be shown many of the gangster landmarks and hangouts. The tour guides wear period costumes and get into the gangster role. Expect to hear a lot of "dees, dems and does," as in "dees guys, dem dolls and does times."
- Address: Tours leave from 600 N. Clark St.
- Reservations: 773-881-1195
- Price: $30 per adult
- Hours: Tours run at several times 7 days a week. View the tour schedule
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A new public TV documentary reveals Al Capone's happy place: Wisconsin
Al Capone — Cheesehead?
A new Milwaukee PBS documentary makes the case that, while the legendary Chicago mobster wasn't from Wisconsin, he used the state as a refuge more often than you might have guessed.
"Al Capone: Prohibition & Wisconsin" will premiere at 8 and 9:30 p.m. Jan. 29 on WMVS-TV (Channel 10). The 30-minute production explores some of the places and people in the Badger State that Capone embraced, from the Northwoods to Brookfield — and one place where his minions gunned down one of his foes.
“I don’t think people realize how big a part (of Capone's life) was … in Wisconsin,” producer Traci Neuman said.
Neuman and director Brian Ewig had been researching Prohibition and its impact on Milwaukee and Wisconsin for a series of digital programs on Milwaukee PBS' website (a half-dozen of the short programs are online at milwaukeepbs.org/prohibition ) . Again, and again, they'd hear stories about Capone.
“Everybody seemed to have a story about Capone and for us, it was trying to sort out the fact vs. the fiction,” Neuman said.
Among the people they interviewed: Diane Capone, his oldest living granddaughter, who published a book about her grandfather in 2019.
“Even his granddaughter didn’t have any idea how much time he spent in Wisconsin,” Neuman said.
Al Capone making friends in the Northwoods
What really convinced them they had a story to tell, Ewig said, was finding letters at the Manitowish Waters Historical Society that documented Capone's efforts in the late 1920s — not long before he was sent to federal prison for tax evasion and other charges — to buy land near Winchester in Vilas County. The letters, sent to local real estate agent Bill Sell, revealed a friendship with no traces of the gangster behind the St. Valentine's Day massacre.
In another local connection, the documentary shows, the property Capone was trying to buy near Winchester in 1929 was owned by the Trostel family, who owned one of Milwaukee's largest tannery operations at the time.
Capone also owned a place in Courderay in Sawyer County and helped support a massive moonshine operation in the Northwoods. His brother Ralph later bought his own place in Mercer, and operated a tavern and hotel in the Iron County community for 40 years; after Al got out of Alcatraz, he often came up to Mercer to visit Ralph.
“It would make sense that this would be of a safe haven, as opposed to Chicago,” Neuman said.
Capone's doings in the state weren't limited to Up North. He had a house on Brookfield Road in Brookfield that appeared to serve as a stopping point between Chicago's south side and northern Wisconsin. (The documentary features the latest owner giving a tour, including the remnants of a tunnel that led to a barn for quick getaways.)
“By all accounts, the Brookfield home had quite a lot of activity from the Chicago syndicate," Ewig said.
A killing in Waukesha County
For the most part, "Capone: Prohibition & Wisconsin" paints a different portrait from the one we know from movies and television of the man who was dubbed Public Enemy No. 1: playful, good-natured, generous, human.
But the production doesn't shy away from the more familiar side of the man regarded as the leader of the Chicago Outfit, the Windy City's dominant criminal operation, who often eliminated competition by, well, eliminating competition.
Using re-enactments, Ewig recreates the killing of Jack Zuta, a former lieutenant in the operation of Capone's Chicagoland rival, George "Bugs" Moran. In 1930, Zuta was hiding out — he'd been accused of the murder of Chicago journalist Jake Lingle, a friend of Capone's — at Lake View Hotel on Upper Nemanbin Lake in western Waukesha County, when an execution squad showed up and riddled him with machine gun bullets in front of the frightened resort crowd.
Where you can watch 'Al Capone: Prohibition & Wisconsin'
The documentary "Al Capone: Prohibition & Wisconsin" is airing at 8 and 9:30 p.m. Jan. 29 on WMVS-TV (Channel 10), with multiple repeats on the Milwaukee PBS station during the rest of the week. See milwaukeepbs.org for additional listings.
MORE: My cousin was killed by a car bomb in Milwaukee. A mob boss was the top suspect. Now, I’m looking for answers.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A new public TV documentary reveals Al Capone's happy place: Wisconsin
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