Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Al Capone's House is For Sale
This is the house Al and Mae Capone bought in 1923. Capone lived there with his extended family for the rest of his life, when he wasn't downtown at the Palmer House Hotel, at his home in Florida, or at Alcatraz. The brick two-flat at 7244 South Prairie Ave., in Chicago's Park Manor neighborhood, is four blocks east of the Dan Ryan Expressway, just north of 73rd Street. It is priced to sell at $225,000, but there have been no takers.
Chicago doesn't know what to do with Al Capone and his legacy. He embodies Prohibition-era America for many Americans. He ruled not just Chicago's illegal alcohol trade and other criminal rackets, but Chicago itself. He was an important historical figure by any estimation. He was also a murderous thug. Should major sites associated with him be preserved? The house on South Prairie is a private residence now, two apartments actually, but it could be a landmark? A museum? Something. But should it be?
Chicago has never been sure. We know we bury history at our peril, yet how do you memorialize a character like Capone without unintentionally glorifying him? Gangster stories from "The Godfather" to "The Sopranos" humanize their subjects by showing them being tender with their families. So does that mean preserving his family home would be a good thing or a bad thing?
Capone was portrayed in the just-concluded HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" by Stephen Graham. He was a pivotal character throughout the series, which raised Capone's profile considerably with the current generation. In one of the final scenes of the final episode, Capone has a tender moment with his deaf teenage son, presumably in the house on South Prairie.
South Prairie is also the house where memoirist Deidre Capone is said to have heard her great uncle Al declare Templeton Rye to be Al's favorite whiskey. While many in Chicago would like to bury the memory of Al Capone, others will do anything to exploit it. Deidre Capone is the daughter of Ralph Capone's only son, also named Ralph. (The elder Ralph Capone, Al's brother, is portrayed on "Boardwalk Empire" by Domenick Lombardozzi.)
Deidre Capone was born in 1940. She was 7-years-old when Al Capone died. When he was released from prison a year before she was born, he was suffering from advanced syphilis. His cognitive abilities were greatly diminished. Deidre Capone never heard her great uncle Al declare anything.
There is more about the house here but, unfortunately, it is behind the Chicago Tribune's pay wall.
Maybe Templeton should double-down on their flimsy Capone myth, buy the house on South Prairie, and make it their Chicago welcome center. With their present story in shambles, they need to do something.