The Ghost of Al Capone

My Aunt, who has long since passed, claimed that she knew Ralph Capone and had a date with him. And she had heard that his brother Al, was trying to really help other businesses in Chicago prosper but that all changed and no one that knew the infamous man talked about him in later years. He became Public Enemy #1 and better known as Scarface; the most dangerous organized crime leader of all time. Al Capone was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York working brothels there and came to work for Johnny Torrio, in Chicago as a body guard and was hit by a gang. He was an Italian-American mobster who helped build the Chicago Outfit in the 1920s deciding to retire giving Al Capone his entire business.

Al’s brothers came from New York to help which included Ralph. Al was truly Untouchable like the movie about until he prompted the St. Valentines Day Massacre though he was not officially connected to the rival gangs murders. Al expanded the boot-legging business which he ran for seven years and was put in jail for tax evasion in 1931. He was also suffering from neurosyphilis and had know for sometime that he had but was embarrassed to get treatment. He was released from prison because he was so sick after 8 years and died at his Miami Beach home on Palm Island on January 25, 1947 at the age of 43. Sources say his mind was that of a 12 year old and died of cardiac arrest after a stroke.

Where is Al Capone’s ghost now?

Maribel Caves Hotel in Wisconsin was demolished in 2013 but some say the Capone who owned it still walks on the premise.

Many still claim to see his ghost sitting at the bar of the Congress Hotel which is haunted with many ghosts. He was known to hang out there and have many a business meeting. Several of his friends actually lived in the hotel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The corridors where used for smuggling and many other illegal activities.

Capone’s home at 7244 South Prairie Ave., Chicago was originally built in 1908, and purchased by the mafia boss in 1923. Capone lived there until he bought his Miami home and after that, he gave his Chicago home to his mother. The house had few owners; the house finally sold to for 226,000 in 2019 being on the market for several years.

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. Chicago Tours have frequently designed custom tours that visit this famous juke joint though I have not seen any ghosts there when I have visited.

He has been seen by many floating by the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago as well as sitting on a bench. Some say they have seen him at a Bulls game.

Windy City Ghosts offers some great Chicago Gangster Tours. The tour is perfect for people who want to learn more about the Second City’s history, those who would like to get to know a specific Chicago neighborhood in depth, as well as those interested in the paranormal. Everyone is welcome, from ghost tour newbies to history buffs to professional ghost hunters. Gangsters and Ghosts offer a walking tour on the streets to really acquaint yourself with the infamous city of Chicago, through a guided Chicago Gangster Tour or Ghost Tour, detailing the crimes, deals, and charisma that made the city what it is today.

Glessner House

By Caryl Clem:

Mrs. Frances Glessner started Monday Morning Reading classes on November 21, 1894 to explore great scholars and experts’ works with 25 or more Chicago ladies. The tradition to inspire and provoke thoughts is still alive and thriving.  Standing indestructible on stone blocks at 1800 Prairie Street, the Glessner House is a Chicago cornerstone.  Visibly Glessner’s outside is stern, simple architecture, an original Richardson Romanesque, inside gracious airy rooms. The Glessner home was deeded to Chicago after the couple’s deaths as a museum to provide a place for great minds to find expression and appreciate culture.

William Rainey Harper, Yale graduate became President of the University of Chicago from 1891-1906.  He wanted woman faculty newcomers to be able to meet prominent Chicago wives throughout Chicago. He approached Frances Glessner for suggestions and the Monday Morning Reading classes were born. The Who’s Who of Chicago’s aristocratic Southside met educational trailblazers from a variety of cultures.   Many of the faculty wives were living in crude conditions while homes were built.  The city seemed foreign and difficult to maneuver for these university women.  Friendships emerged during the meetings that made strangers to Chicago feel welcomed.

John Glessner’s farm machinery business finesse resulted in the formation of International Harvester. He instigated the mergerof the largest farm implement companies together to end the reaper wars. He devoted his after work hours to serving various organizations to improve life in Chicago. The following are just the tip of his social iceberg:  Citizen’s Advisory Board to Chicago, Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Chicago Orphan Asylum, Rush Medical Group, Art Institute of Chicago and trustee of Chicago Orchestra Association.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966 did not want to see the Glessner house meet the fate of other homes of the Gilded Age suffering neglect and eventual tear down.  The home was fortified for continued use. The architect Henry Hobson Richardson died before he could see his completed masterpiece. Rumors abound that a white entity is seen floating in different rooms in the house leaving a telltale trail of cold air. John Drury mention in his book, Old Chicago Houses, that rooms were a laboratory for  the Institute of Technology  designing aptitude tests for students to identify what career choice best suits their personality and strengths . Glessner house is now a museum.

https://www.glessnerhouse.org/programs

A few famous Chicago firsts

           

By Caryl Clem:

Many Chicago firsts lay quietly documented in print unknown to current Chicagoans.  

            A wealthy man traveled to Chicago in 1835 during heavy storms to supervise his brother-in-laws purchase of land in a settlement along Lake Michigan. The roads were muddy trails trapping stagecoaches, too swampy to even walk. The steady flow of settlers buying property along the Lake cumulated in a quick profit after selling only 1/3 of the land. William Butler Ogden, keenly aware of Chicago’s potential, stayed to build this city into a Midwest commercial center. He gave up his New York Senate seat.

            In 1837, William Ogden and 2 others ushered Chicago into cityhood complete with seal and motto Ogden had been the railroad genius consulted by Vice President Marin Van Buren to enable railroads to stretch from the East to Pennsylvania and New York.  Ogden as a member of the New York Assembly convinced members to fund railroads. He served as President on the committee that planned the western railroad expansions.  Believing transportation development was crucial for growth, he merged over 20 small railroads into the C & NW by 1863 cementing Chicago’s future success.

            The marshy canal laced land tracts were bought by the Chicago Land Company in 1853; Chicago’s first mayor was a principal stockholder.  Ogden had this land drained. .   Originally, Goose Island was heavily populated by Irish immigrants.  Alderman Thomas Keane recalled homeowners in the 1890’s loved raising chickens and gardening in the city while living near work.  After the Depression, failed businesses, fewer occupants decreased to three residents by 1970.  In 1990, Daley’s Planned Manufacturing District push revived this area.  

            The first beer research and brewing company in the United States in 1968, founded by a German chemist, John Edward Siebel became Siebel Institute of Technology.  Famous graduates John W. Stroh, Jr. and August A. Busch III demonstrated the quality of instruction offered.  John Hall bought a brewery in 1988 on Goose Island and created Chicago beers. all opens a brewery  In 2003, Siebel Institute offered classes at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourne Ave.

            Ogden lost his childhood sweetheart weeks before the wedding; he remained single until age 70.  He built a large house for his sister and mother hosting affairs for future Chicago supporters with a piano accompanied sing along and dinner party, truly Chicago’s first tycoon. He entertained famous guests Martin Van Buren and Daniel Webster. He was active in real estate, iron ore mining, lumbering, banking, and city transit systems.  His personal lawyer to secure land title transfers was Abraham Lincoln.  After the Great Fire in 1871, he moved back to New York City. His ability to shape greatness enabled Chicago to come roaring back, better and stronger from the fire’s ashes.

Chicago’s Botanic Garden, Proof of Chicago’s Early Nickname

By Caryl Clem

The Chicago Horticultural Society joined forces with the Forest Preserve to acquire 385 acres of land in 1965. The new venture was named Chicago Botanic Garden. The ability to view over 20 unique gardens designed with plants that thrive in Chicago’s environment opened in 1972. Mother Nature is on parade featuring 26 million plants. . Plants from a variety of countries that do well in this climate are on display. In 1837 when the city was incorporated, Chicago’s first seal had Latin phrase, “Urbs in Horto” translated to “City in a Garden”. This vision had become a reality.

Mayor William Ogden was inspired by a famous landscaper from New York in 1828, Andre Parmentier, who stated, “botany was a science; landscape in horticultural gardens was an art.” Previously large city gardens had mazes, walkways, water fountains or statues with a few blooms. while the smaller English cottage gardens were dominated by flowers. Blending the two designs was the new trend. Gardens were a symbol of stability and cultural artistic appreciation. Chicago’s image needed the comforting atmosphere of a garden to offset the labor unrest in a growing industrial giant.

Chicago Botanic Garden reclaimed swampy undesirable land creating waterfalls, a small lake, bridges and breathtaking exhibits.  Their motto, “We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life” can be experienced throughout the nine laboratories, nine islands, 4 nature areas, and 6 miles along the lakeside. Labeled lush foliage and drought resistant hardy plants renew your interest in expanding your yard’s potential as you examine the possibilities.  Exhibit buildings offer art and botanical related exhibits. Even though one edge hugs the Highland Park Golf Course, you are in a private domain removed from city activity. Members have access to free plants and seedlings, concerts, free parking and a variety of events. 

The Prudential Building: Tallest in Chicago?

Who remembers when the Prudential Building was the tallest building in Chicago? I went with my family, parking in the new underground parking lot and was terrified the windows would cave in. I remember my Mom putting money in a telescope dispenser where we could view the skyline and other buildings, much, much, closer. The Prudential was actually the same age as me and I was only five when I saw it for the first time….both of us born in 1955; a 41-story structure which was the headquarters for Prudential’s Mid-America company. Some visited the new Stouffers restaurant in the building after viewing Chicago’s skyline. I remember going on another trip with my girl scout troop and eating at Wimpy’s Grill on Clark Street, another Chicago beginning opening in 1934 with the best burgers. The spire on top represented WGN.

According to Connecting the Windy City, The first tenant to move into the building, the western advertising offices of Readers’ Digest magazine, settled into its space in September of 1955, taking up temporary space on the third floor before moving up to the nineteenth floor in the spring of 1956.

The structure was the first new downtown skyscraper constructed in Chicago since the Field Building, 21 years earlier and was built on air rights over the Illinois Central Railroad. It was the last building ever connected to the Chicago Tunnel Company’s tunnel network. It became One Prudential Plaza when a second building was built in 1990. Completed in 1972, the simple, rectangular-shaped, tubular steel-framed structure was originally called the Standard Oil Building and now Aon which is much taller than the Prudential. Actually the Board of Trade building built in 1930 was taller and had an observation deck but as Baby Boomer children most of us were told that the Prudential was the tallest maybe because it was new and located by the lake with the best views. It was the tallest skyscraper built in the 1950’s.

Then it became Two Prudential Plaza which was 64 floors. In 2006, Bentley Forbes purchased One Prudential and the property next door but went into default due to the recession. In 2015, New York companies bought in though Bentley Forbes still has interest in ownership.

Chicago’s impact on Fox Lake

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago Trading Company, a giant distributor of crops by trains and ships that resulted in Chicago becoming the largest grain port in the world by 1854. When the Wisconsin Central railroad connected to the Chain O’Lakes area in 1882, a resort haven for wealthy Chicagoans was created. Chicago Board of Trade members decided to build a private grand hotel in Fox Lake, The Mineola on 91 North Cora Avenue in 1884. The three story structure with a two tiered veranda featured one hundred private room suites with hot and cold running water available for $2.00 daily. Labor statistics in 1884 for Chicago day laborers averaged about $2.20 a week. The hotel sold to a new owner in 1891 that expanded business by going public. Weekends at the hotel featured entertainment while enjoying the surrounding scenery. Sightseeing steamboats carried tourists to” Egyptian Lotus “beds flowering on several lakes.

In 1897, The Chicago Board Trade members shifted focus to opening a private boating enterprise, The Pistakee Yacht Club still in operation today. Boat racing competitions attracted powerful men. In 1922, Cook County Board President, Anton Cermak, thrilled 5,000 spectators victorious in his “City of Chicago” boat. Governors of Illinois, Otto Kerner, William Stratton, Fred Busse, and Big Bill Thompson all relaxed in the Chain of Lakes summer activities. Gatsby era mansions appeared along the Chain of Lakes coastline as families claimed their summer retreat territory. Fox Lake became the summer hot spot; leisure time could be spent boating, fishing, hunting, gambling, dining and dancing.

When the Nippersink Station opened connected to the Milwaukee railway in 1901, a broader financial spectrum of people arrived. In 1907, permanent residents in the Fox Lake area numbered around 500, soaring to over 20,000 during the summer months. Over 45 liquor licenses were issued in the Fox Lake area just before the Prohibition hit. By 1910, The Chicago Tribune reported the Mineola Hotel lacked morals and was not a proper place to spend time since excessive drinking, prostitution and gambling existed. The Fox Lake village did not place any limits on profitable business practices. During the 1920’s Prohibition era liquor flowed freely throughout the area.

By the “Roaring Twenties” Fox Lake became the choice hangout for mobsters and gangsters. Al Capone, head of Chicago’s North side battled “Bugs” Moran head of Chicago’s South side for control of the booze trade, during beer wars in Chicago. Both owned property near Fox Lake. On June 1, 1930 the feud came to a head at Manning’s Hotel in Fox Lake when 3 of Moran’s crew were shot dead, commonly referred to as the Fox Lake Massacre. A year earlier, Capone had lost lives to Moran in the St. Valentines’ Day Massacre. Moran, outmaneuvered, losing power left the Chicago area shortly after this attack. Fox Lake today continues to grow and change remaining a favorite summer retreat.

Gayety’s Ice Cream is open

Gayety’s Candy was located on the South side of Chicago at 9207 Commercial Ave. established in 1920, over 100 years ago, right next to the Gayety Theatre. Founder James Papageorge was an immigrant stowed away on a steemer from Greece at the age of  nine. He learned everything about candy and ice cream while opening a shop next to the Gayety Theatre with the same name. It wasn’t uncommon to share the names of other businesses.I remember Mom I visiting to buy their homemade candies when I was little but they had best ice cream sundaes and banana splits with fruit cocktail. Moved to Lansing, IL and Shereville, Indiana, was closed, but has re-opened in Lansing.

Located at 3306 Ridge Rd,  Laurene Lemanski bought Gayety’s through her new company, For the Love of Chocolates and Ice Cream. Her parents grew up on the South side and went to the shop there. She actually worked at the Torrence Avenue store in Lansing in the 1980’s while attending high school.

The fruit topped banana and vanilla ice cream sundae is buried under a liberal dollop of real whipped cream and crushed nuts. They also offer seasonal flavors of ice cream depending on the time of year. Their shakes are massive, and they serve you what’s left in the tumbler too. They have ice cream chairs that are also fun to sit in enjoying the atmosphere of a real ice cream parlot.

Image courtesy of A.C.C

Rainbow Ice Cream and Rileys Trick Shop

Living on the south side in the 1960’s, we would make a trip to Rainbow Ice Cream  at 92nd and Western eating the same five-flavored ice cream cone as today; chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet. Grandpa Joe Sapp established Rainbow in 1926. His first rainbow cones were sold out of a small ice cream shack on 92nd street across the street from the building that was built four years later and still exists today. Then we visited Riley’s Trick shop that was located at 9033 Western Ave, opened in 1965. I remember getting trick cards and funny eye glasses.

Riley’s opened in 1937 at 79th and Rhodes which mainly sold greeting cards and paper goods. Jim Riley and Eleanor married three weeks after opening their shop. They had a popcorn wagon that was hurting popcorn sales at the nearby Rhodes Theatre so the manager offered them $75 for it. They invested that $75 into a line of tricks, jokes and magic, and Riley’s Trick Shop was born. In 1945, Jim Riley co-founded Magic Masters of Chicago which is still thriving today. They moved into another rented storefront at 1057 W. 79th St. in 1956. In 1965, Jim and Eleanor Riley built their own building with living quarters above at 9033 Western Ave.

In 8 years, there the business outgrew two building additions and moved to its current 5,000 square-foot location at 6442 W. 111th in Worth, Illinois. Jim and Eleanor lived above the business they loved until they passed away 27 days apart in 2002. Jim’s son moved the Worth to Palos but had to close in 2014

Rainbow Round Cake consists of all five ice cream flavors of the Rainbow Cone on top of a cake layer. Rainbow Cake Rolls are offered in 6″ and 12″ rolls. They currently offer chocolate cake rolled with five flavors of the Rainbow Cone. Over 96 years, the Sapp family is still serving the same ice cream Joseph developed back in 1926.

 

 

Plush Horse

We lived on the south side of Chicago and it was a field trip with my family to the Plush Horse in Palos Park. It was like going to visit a relative at an old-fashioned, three-story shingled house and, of course, I always had to see if the horse was there as a child. With my adult daughter, we continue to visit and again, I have to see if the stuffed horse is there…it is. For over 80 years, the Plush Horse in Palos Park offers a nostalgic atmosphere with an overwhelming selection of homemade ice cream. Over 70 different flavors.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the original farmhouse was built in 1893. A Mrs. Gray moved there as a bride during the Spanish-American War. Her husband went off to war, and she had the store built so that he would have something to do when he came home. For a few years the storefront housed a general store. Later, the store went through reincarnations as a butcher shop and an antique shop until the Itzel family opened the ice cream parlor in 1937. It has been through several owners since but still the best ice cream.

Today, as an adult it offers some great, specialty, coffee moments so when the parlor is open, you can visit on a cold night. They are opened all year round and you can order online. Plush Horse offers a variety of ice cream with out sugar added. Cones,shakes,sodas,malts, sundaes, and banana splits are just a few of the delicious handmade sweets and treats they offer and they have some great ice cream cakes. Many a child have spent their birthday celebrating with a cake from the shop. They also have a Plush Horse in Tinley Park which has been opened since 2012 and have been named “The Best Ice Cream” in the South land!

Picture courtesy of Slywy.com.

 

Ford City Mall

For me, my first experience with here was not shopping but seeing the Exorcist released in 1973 followed by Jaws in 1975. But many remember the buildings at Ford City were constructed by Chrysler Motors in 1943 to produce engines for the B-29 bomber. It was  called the Dodge Plant; a sprawling industrial complex with dozens of buildings. The main building occupied 20 city blocks and was then the largest space in the world under a single roof. I know parents of many Baby Boomer children taking jobs there during the war. When the war ended, the plant was stalled until the Korean war when Ford purchased the property and aircraft was manufactured there. The Ford company modernized everything inside the building, employing nearly 12,000 people. After that war, the building closed again in 1959 and the government sold it to Harry Chaddick

The mall opened in 1965 as Ford City. The mall consists of two halves – a strip mall and enclosed mall. The mall consists of two halves – a strip mall and enclosed mall. The strip mall portion is connected to the enclosed mall by a tunnel called “The Connection”. It utilizes the basement between the severed halves of the buildings directly below the parking lot. The Connection was originally called Peacock Alley from the late 1970s through the 1980s.

On May 27, 1966 Ford City Cinema I & II opened at 7601 S. Cicero Ave. Boasting Chicago’s first TWIN theatre. The movies shown that day were “A Thousand Clowns” and “The Great Race”. Ford City East Cinema opened in 1981 and was located at 76th & Pulaski. This theater had three screens.On August 10, 1990, the theater became known as Ford City 14 Theaters. It was one of the largest megaplex theaters of its day. In 2002, AMC took over the Ford City 14.

Currently, Ford City has about 87 stores. Many that go want to tour the basement alone which is still known as “the connection” originally called Peacock Alley.