Overview: Michael Jordan. Mayor Daley. Al Capone. No matter where you go around the world, these are three Chicagoans people most want to know... more »
Michael Jordan. Mayor Daley. Al Capone. No matter where you go around the world, these are three Chicagoans people most want to know... more » about. Al Capone was just a cocky tough kid from Brooklyn when South Side boss Johnny "The Fox" Torrio took him on in 1919. Within a few years, Capone had taken control of Chicago's biggest operation in bootleg hooch, making this one of the Prohibition era's wettest and most colorful cities. By 1931 Capone was on trial for tax evasion and on his way to Alcatraz. Before he left town, Capone made his mark on infamous gangster Chicago's history.
This tour will take you to the sites where Big Al, his enemies and his cronies worked, played and fought. Many of the locations are much changed—some of the buildings have even been razed or converted to different functions. Use your imagination during your visits: Envision tough guys in pin-stripe suits, spats and fedoras (Al Capone was known as a spiffy dresser) carrying Thompson submachine guns and riding on the running boards of roadsters. less «
Most of these sites are in or around downtown Chicago. Look for street parking (make sure you pay at the boxes) or pay parking lots.
... more » The cemetery is in west suburban Hillside—not far from the city. Cicero (Capone had several business enterprises there) also is a western suburb. Give yourself plenty of time to travel to those sites. less «
Now the home of Victory Garden Theater, the Biograph Theater is a must-see spot for gangster buffs. In the early 1930s, bank robber John Dillinger took some of the heat off Al Capone when he was named Public Enemy No. 1. Wanted by the FBI for more than two dozen daring Depression-era bank heists and two jail escapes, Dillinger went to Chicago for ... Moresome anonymity. It didn't last long. Fingered by the "Lady in Red," Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI—led by relentless agent Melvin Purvis—on July 22, 1934. He was just leaving the "air-cooled" Biograph Theater where he had seen "Manhattan Melodrama."
The Biograph Theater was built in 1914 in the style of movie palaces—roomy lobby, outside ticket booth and lighted marquee sign over the sidewalk. Used as a shooting location for the movie "Public Enemies" (starring Johnny Depp as Dillinger), the theater recently got a Hollywood facelift. It is now used for stage productions by the Victory Gardens Theater. Call 773-549-5788 for more information or check the performance schedule at victorygarden.org.
For a closer look, find street parking.
2433 N. Lincoln
Just across the street from the Biograph Theater, the Red Lion Pub was a popular place for a nightcap. Among the satisfied customers was Al Capone. The building dates to 1882. Unfortunately, the restaurant was recently closed.
2446 N. Lincoln
Looking at this quiet green space, you'll need to use your imagination as to what once stood and happened here. In 1929 this spot was occupied by a dingy garage—an unlikely site for one of Chicago's most infamous crimes.
On the morning of Feb. 14, 1929, North Side kingpin George "Bugs" Moran was supposed to have an appointment at the... More SMC Cartage garage. He didn't show. But bootleggers and speakeasy owners in Moran's gang did, and so did a couple of fellows with Tommy guns, allegedly keeping the appointment for Al "Scarface" Capone. Moran's gang, along with an eye doctor who fancied himself a gangster wannabe, were lined up against the wall and gunned down in a blaze of bullets. When the smoke cleared seven men were dead.
Even though this spectacular crime took place in broad daylight, none of the witnesses seemed to know (or care) enough to give police solid leads. Although speculation is that Capone was the mastermind, he was never charged.
2122 N. Clark
Holy Name Cathedral gets a lot of attention because the bullet holes from a famous gangster shoot-out are still gaping in the walls (look for them in the cornerstone). The target of the shooting, Earl "Hymie" Weiss, was rumored to be on his way to meet fellow North Side gang members to discuss how to avenge the death of boss Dean "... More;Dion" O'Banion, who was shot down among his flowers at nearby Schofield's flower shop at 612 N. State St. (that site is now a parking lot).
Weiss was in O'Banion's gang, and the flower shop was gang headquarters. On Oct. 11, 1926, Weiss parked his car outside the cathedral and stepped out into the sights of Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, a member of Capone's enterprise. This shooting was a landmark for another reason: It established Capone as the uncontested Boss of the South Side gang and put "Bugs" Moran in the driver's seat for the North Siders.
Holy Name Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago. If you're just going to look for the bullet holes, you can try to park on the street and make a quick visit. But "cheese it" if you see the cops—parking around here should officially be done in pay lots.
735 N. State
Imagine it's the Roaring '20s and you are the most powerful man in Chicago. Where would you live? In one of the city's most glamorous hotels, of course. As a family man, Capone lived with his wife, Mae, and son, Albert (known as Sonny), in a cozy house on south Prairie Avenue where he cooked Sunday dinners and entertained the family. But most of... More the time he could be found at the Lexington Hotel, where he and his gang occupied several floors, some for business and some for, well, pleasure.
The Capone suite was lavish and, according to legend, had access to hidden passageways—anyone remember when Geraldo Rivera brought in the camera crew to search Capone's secret vault?
Despite multiple attempts to save the building as a historic landmark, it was razed in 1995. When you look at the modern building that has taken its place, try to imagine yourself in spats and a fedora, ready for an appointment with Big Al.
2135 S. Michigan
When Al Capone arrived in Chicago, Big Jim Colosimo ruled the South Side. He signed Al on, sending him down the street to the Four Deuces (2222 S. Wabash), where Al used his considerable charm to lure customers in for a drink. He'd then "encourage" them to stay for gambling and other activities. The center of Colosimo's operations was... More his busy restaurant where customers could get anything they wanted—anything. Unfortunately, Colosimo was as good at making enemies as he was at making friends. He was gunned down in his own restaurant in 1920—no witnesses—moving Johnny Torrio up to boss with Capone as his No. 1 man.
Both Colosimo's and the Four Deuces are now empty lots. But Tommy Gun's Garage, the speakeasy-style Roaring '20s, is just across the street. Plan to have a meal and see a show.
2126 S. Wabash
Union Station is the rail hub for Amtrak and Metra trains, always a busy and bustling place. What better place for Eliot Ness to become a hero for saving a baby bumping down the station steps out of control? Of course, that famous scene—straight out of "The Untouchable" starring Kevin Costner as Ness—was totally Hollywood fiction. No... More matter. It's still a great stop in gangster Chicago.
Canal and Adams
Back in January 1920 the 18th Amendment enacted Prohibition, which made it illegal to sell alcohol. But that didn't stop thirsty customers from buying it. Nefarious entrepreneurs went into business importing "hooch" (illegal alcohol) from Canada, making "private label" bootleg whiskey and bathtub gin, running lucrative... More speakeasies, and brewing and bottling their own beer. Chicago's breweries were forced to close or make non-alcoholic beer. The Sieben family decided to rent their brewery to a couple of business partners who called the operation the George Frank Brewery and were supposedly making NA beer.
In truth, the partners were North Side boss Dion O'Banion and Johnny "The Fox" Torrio, head of the South Side gang. And their beer was the real thing. Things went smoothly until 1924 when O'Banion announced he wanted to retire from the bootleg business. He offered to sell his half of the operation to Torrio for $500,000. Torrio agreed. Torrio and Al Capone showed up with the bundle of cash on a May morning and turned it over to O'Banion. O'Banion left just before the cops turned up to raid the place. Torrio and Capone were arrested for violating the Volsted Act and sent to jail.
No one knows for sure if it was O'Banion who tipped off the police and set up the South Siders, but the incident set off the brutal Beer Wars. O'Banion himself was a casualty, shot dead in his flower shop just six months later.
1466 N. Larrabee
A Roaring '20s-style dinner theater with a speakeasy atmosphere, Tommy Gun's Garage serves up dinner, drinks and a floor show that will transport you back in time. The interactive musical comedy revue features "da gangsters and da flappers and YOU." Singing hit songs from the 1920s, dancing the Charleston, tossing off one-liners that... More would make a grown gangster moan, the fun doesn't stop until the coppers raid the joint and everyone has to hide the hooch!
Located across from where Colosimo's Restaurant and the Four Deuces—both places had strong connections to Al Capone—were operated in the 1920s, Tommy Gun's menu is simple—you're going for the fun!
2114 S. Wabash
October-December; February-March Thursday-SundayLess
Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery is the final—if not the first—resting place of the most notorious of Chicago gangsters, Al Capone. Located just outside Chicago in west suburban Hillside off Interstate 290, the cemetery is also the burial place for Capone's brother, Ralph "Bottles" Capone, Jake Lingle, the Chicago Tribune crimer reporter... More whose zeal for gangster shoot-outs got him killed in the crossfire, and several of Capone's rivals, including the infamous Genna brothers: Bloody Angelo, Mike the Devil and Tony the Gentleman.
To find Capone's grave, turn right from the Roosevelt Road entrance, pass about six markers and look for CAPONE—it's a large gray marker in Section 35. To find other graves at Mount Carmel Cemetery, check the website
Although Capone (1899-1947) became a larger-than-life legend, he had pretty humble beginnings. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1899, he grew up in a rough neighborhood, joining two gangs before he dropped out of school at age 14. It was while working as a barman and bouncer in gangster Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn in Manhattan that he received the wounds that gave him the nickname he hated: "Scarface."
Capone fled New York in 1919 after killing two rival gang members and arrived in Chicago, where he became the protégé of gangster John "The Fox" Torrio. Moving quickly up the ranks, Capone soon ruled the city’s darker enterprises—brothels, speakeasies, gambling halls, race tracks, breweries and nightclubs—between 1925 and 1930.
Capone was never convicted of murder, although many of the most famous murders of the era were said to be masterminded by him. Instead, a group of federal agents led by Eliot Ness and known as the "Untouchables" managed to find the evidence they needed to send Capone to jail for tax evasion in 1931. He died of syphilis in Miami in 1947.
Capone was first buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery on the South Side. Because the grave was frequently disturbed by sightseers, his remains were moved to Mount Carmel.
1400 S. Wolf Rd.
Cemetery office hours
Opened in 1922, Klas is the largest Czech restaurant in the United States, known for its Old World decor (amazing), generous portions of home-cooked food and its link to Al Capone. Capone had headquarters in Cicero, and when he was out that way, he frequented Klas, enjoying a hearty meal and, no doubt, a cool Czech beer. According to accounts,... More there was also a busy brothel upstairs. A photo of Capone at the restaurant and some Capone memorabilia are framed and hang in the lobby at Klas. Go hungry!
5734 W. Cermak Rd.
Al Capone was a fan of good entertainment and a safe place to hide out. The Green Mill, a jazz club, offered both. Capone had a favorite booth where he could meet with his crew and still keep an eye on the doors.
The club still operates, offering terrific live jazz as well as the popular Uptown Poetry Slam.
4802 W. Broadway