Al Capone’s Home

More than eighty years have passed since the feds sent Al Capone into involuntary retirement.  Many of the landmarks of his career are gone.  Yet his Chicago home still stands at 7244 South Prairie Avenue.

Capone was 24 years old when he bought the red brick two-flat for $5,500 in 1923.  He had risen to second-in-command of the Torrio mob, and was flush.  A place in a nice, quiet neighborhood was just what he wanted for his wife Mae and their young son.

He also wanted his relatives near him.  Capone brought his widowed mother Teresa to Chicago from Brooklyn, along with his two younger sisters.  There was also room for his brother Ralph, who was married with two children of his own.

Capone Home

The two-flat had fifteen rooms.  Al took the seven rooms on the first floor for his wife, son, mother, and sisters.  Ralph’s family occupied the eight rooms upstairs.  In later years, two other Capone brothers also lived in the second-floor flat.

When the Capones moved into the two-flat, the most noteworthy thing about the family was that they were Italians settling in a mostly-Irish area.  Al was not yet a celebrity.  He told neighbors he was a second-hand furniture dealer.

Al soon personalized his residence with some special touches.  For the master bath, he imported a seven-foot tub from Germany.  A steel door was installed on the basement, and steel bars were set in the ground-floor windows.   An oversize brick garage was built to accommodate Al’s big armor-plated autos.

While the Capones were getting settled on Prairie Avenue, Chicago mayor William E. Dever was cracking down on the illegal liquor trade.  The Torrio outfit moved its operations to suburban Cicero.  Al kept the two-flat.

Capone

Chicagoans first became acquainted with the Capone residence in 1924, when brother Frank was waked there after a police shoot-out.  As Al became more famous, his home was often in the news. Visiting reporters knew he was good copy, and they sometimes got a plate of home-cooked spaghetti during an interview.  By the time Dever was voted out in 1927, Capone had become the new mob boss.

Now Al established headquarters at the Lexington Hotel, just south of the Loop.  As his business expanded, he spent less time on Prairie Avenue.  In 1929 he moved to Florida.  He maintained his legal residence there, through all his legal set-backs, until his death in 1947.

Al’s mother and various siblings continued living in the two-flat.  Teresa Capone died in 1952, and the family sold the building.  Since then it has passed through several owners.

In 1989 the Capone home was nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  “He was a historical fact,” one historian said. “He lived here, and we need to come to terms with that.”  Opposition from Italian-American organizations and other concerned citizens killed the proposal.

More recently, the current owner has put the property up for sale.  Preservationists are concerned that a purchaser might tear down the historic two-flat.

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