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.

It only takes one…….

As I was sharing my story about Prairie Avenue to the many Facebook sites, I was thinking about my cousins comment to me when I would become discouraged. It only takes one to read your story and become inspired. Right at that moment when God’s angel was reminding me, someone wrote a response on how she enjoyed all of my stories of Chicago field trips. All? It can also take one negative comment… why I write without getting paid more. My passion…..do ya think?  What are other examples of… it only takes one…. to positively change your attitude? Read on…..

After years of infertility and sickness, they found a lady had only three mature eggs. One was fertilized. The miracle egg became the perfect baby. It only takes one!

After years of addiction, he finally quit and remained sober meeting the love of his life.

After a few years in a public school, a child was not doing well. A change to a smaller, private setting was a much better venue and the student prospered. She became a teacher. She became a principal.

She had lost her family to death, as well as her job and really wanted a new start. She moved to the state she had always dreamed and her life changed for the better.

Sometimes, it takes just one phone call, email or conversation to open new doors of hope.

Sometimes it just takes one smile on someone’s face.

What about that son, daughter or loved who says just the right thing at just the right time?

What about the one friend that has known you for decades and all of sudden shows up in color or in a message?

And what about your Mom or Dad telling you how proud they were of you before passing away many years ago?

Maybe it is the phantom driver behind you who paid for your lunch in the McDonalds drive through line that made a difference in your life.

Let’s not forget the people who shoveled your driveway after a massive snowstorm while you slept and never let you know who did the work.

Or the plumber that changed out a toilet for free after a huge leak on the weekend and no one was there to help.

Even the dentist who fixed a partial denture that had a chip for no charge because he knew your insurance would not pay.

And what about that one email from Chicken Soup of Soul that tells you they are going to publish your story and the book arrives in print.

The man that was dying of cancer with no hope from any physician meets a friend at a high school reunion who is a doctor that specializes in his type of cancer. The man is still alive many years later.

How about the man that could not stand to watch his wife of 50 years die; her health had been failing for months but kept hearing a voice saying he would be okay and when she died, he heard her voice saying that she was great.

Or the millions of angels stories out there of tragic accidents being halted.

When you have been told that as a teacher, you have been an Angel to their child, you finally put your decisions in God’s hands.

And sometimes, it only takes ……that one prayer.

More Prairie Avenue Ghosts

I love to walk up and down the historic avenue. I have read many historical novels such as Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker.  Its always a new field trip to walk with the ghosts on Millionaires Row and to read about them. Residents of the street have influenced the evolution of the city and have played prominent national and international roles moving there after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. By 1886, the finest mansions in the city, each equipped with its own carriage house, stood on Prairie Avenue. In the 1880s, mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner, Philip Armour and Kimball. Mansions were located between 16th and 22nd streets.

A few of the mansions do remain such as the Glessner House which is a active museum and the Henry B. Clarke house, also a museum. The Marshall Field, Jr. Mansion at 1919 South Prairie Avenue, now condos, is marvel of preservation and sensitive reuse. And many say that Prairie Avenue is haunted.

Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. So different from the Victorian houses that were being built at the time and eventually those, for the most part, were torn down. The House is a National Historic Landmark and offers wonderful tours with many of the rooms accurately restored to their original appearance and decorative objects and furnishings have been added by the Glessner family. John Glessner lived there until 1936 and thousands tour the house every year. Henry Hobson Richardson never got to see his creation built since he died after he completed the blue prints. Many have seen him walk the halls. Even during the time the Glessner family lived there, Haunted houses.com claim that many family member felt a cold presence moving through the mansion,even today.

The Glessner House Museum offers haunted tours of historic Prairie Avenue. Director of the Glessner House has admitted that there is a strange feeling that has been experienced on the street. The Keith House, privately owned by Marcy Baim, is another on the street. It has been restored, at 1900 Prairie and offers special events such as weddings.

The Kimball House: The house was built in 1890–92 for William Wallace Kimball, a piano manufacturer. I still have a Kimball upright that was built in 1949.  Kimball reportedly spent $1,000,000 on the home. The house is located at 1801 Prairies and though some feel that the outside design is cold, the inside is beautiful with maple floors and 29 rooms which have been sub- divided though many have stayed the same such as the library, huge drawing room, and dining room that housed Mrs. Kimballs massive silver collection. She also collected many paintings by such artists as Rembrandt, Millet, and Monet including many others. But when Mrs Kimball died in 1921, the house was converted to a boarding house which eventually failed and was bought by Daisy Hull for 8,000 in backward children. But finally, the house, along with the Coleman house at 1811 were acquired by R. R. Donnelley in 1973 who donated them to the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1991.  They leased and then sold the properties to the U. S. Soccer Federation for use as their national headquarters, which is how the building is used today. Mrs Kimball still walks the halls. Noises have been heard along with apparitions seen as well as the feeling of being watched.

The Marshall Field Jr House was designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman, the home sold to the son of one of Chicago’s most famous 19th century entrepreneurs for $65,000 in 1890. After a stint as a psychiatric hospital, the structure was sold to the Chicago Architectural Foundation in the 1970s before being partitioned into condominiums in 2007. There are six million dollar condos with a private courtyard in the back. In the past, there have been claims to hear footsteps and strange cries.

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

Memories of the Pump Room

In my best dress, I barely remember eating in a beautiful booth with my Mom and Dad; one of my first Baby boomer childhood trips of elegance. In later years, I celebrated a friend from college’s birthday and excited about seeing the unexpected appearance of one of Charlie’s Angels; a TV series in the late 1970’s and Kate Jackson was her name from the program. My daughter also celebrated a friends birthday at the Pump Room in the 2000’s; bottom picture, my daughter, is second from the right. Dining at the Pump Room, opening on October 1st in 1938 and located at the famous Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was a popular place for many celebrities who wanted to be seen such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and even Judy Garland and her children. It was the infamous booth number one where they would eat together. It always remained vacant until someone important arrived. The table actually had access to a rotary phone where they could make and receive calls. They could also unplug the phone from the wall if they wanted privacy.

Ernie Byfield created the restaurant based on the concept of the original Pump Room in Bath, England, where aristocrats would meet and wanted the same for celebrities visiting Chicago. It worked. Another area I remember is the hall leading to the restaurant that for over 50 years have shared the framed celebrity photos that fill the walls of the room’s entrance, lives that are gone for many. The Ambassador East was located on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago ‘s Gold Coast area and later was renamed. Until the 1950’s, train travel across the US was the only way and celebrities would have a special cross-country Pullman car switching at the LaSalle Street Station. Sometimes they would stay overnight but they did have a suite where they could freshen before returning to the train. Many stayed for lunch at the Pump room. Irv Kupcinet also talked about the Pump room and his celebrity interviews in his column for the Chicago Sun-times.

According to a wonderful article by Dr. Neil Gail, Saving Illinois History One Step At A Time, in 2010 real estate developer Ian Schrager—known for cofounding New York’s Studio 54—buys the Ambassador East for $25 million. In 2011, assets are auctioned off including the phone and is remodeled which reopens as Public Chicago. In 2016, Schrager sells Public Chicago to investors Shapack Partners and Gaw Capital for $61.5 million. In 2017, the hotel is renamed Ambassador Chicago. Rich Melman’s restaurant group, which formerly owned the Pump Room, returns to manage the space and renames it Booth One. After a remodel, the team installs a rotary phone at the famed table. The actually operated the Pump Room from 1976-1998.

The Pump Room went through many changes before finally closing in 2019. Ebay offers some great items of the historic Pump room including a variety of match covers, boxes and menus.

Songs still played in kindergarten

Working with students in kindergarten, it continues to amaze me how they are mesmerized listening to the same songs like I did in kindergarten over 60 years ago. And my own children reacted the same when they were little; 3+ decades earlier. One day I watched one little guy work on his ipad to the sounds of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Skip, Skip, Skip, To My Lou, Are You Sleeping, Brother John, also known as( Fre er Jac Que). I learned the French version of Brother John in third grade. Do You Know The Muffin Man, and B-i-n-go, B-i-n-go, B-i-n-g-o, and Bingo was his name…..O, more of the past. I thought that was it….done… until the teacher put on the video of the famous all-time children’s song Wheels On The Bus and he couldn’t stop singing….neither could I. The music we sang when learning the ABC’s is another melody where everything stops and they listen to the classic creative music. We play that everyday just before we leave for home; a celebration song earned for a good day.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. An alternate final line omits the reference to the birth of Christ, instead declaring that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is popular with Cedarmount kids who released a music series in the 1990’s. Skip to my Lou was song produced in 1844 and was recorded by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St Louis. BeeCeeDee is a popular You Tube channel for kids with entertaining vidoes of the old music and nursery rhymes with over 2 million followers. Are you sleeping…..is another video that you can’t stop listening to as well as watching.

Do you Know the Muffin Man was a traditional nursery rhyme for the Baby Boomer generation but back then it ended with the guy who lived on Drury Lane since the song originated in London. This was a street where fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The “muffin” in question was the bread item known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin. Drury Lane is still a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London. You Tube, once again, has transformed the song into a creative video with cartoon characters that also introduces the Ice Cream Man and the Fruit Stand Man!

Bingo was a folk song created as early as 1780 and has been transformed in a number of ways for children. Again, a Barney video created in 2004 with the Bingo song as well as number of videos that include the Muffin songs, the Countdown Kids, The Countdown Singers, the Little Series and Debbie Doo. “The Wheels on the Bus” is a traditional American folk song from the 1930’s written by Verna Hills in Boston, MA. The song is based on the traditional nursery rhyme “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush ” sharing the same tune. It was a popular for teachers to share in the 1950’s and has been translated into several languages. The YouTube video by Cocomelon is the one our school children delight over but YouTube provides many animated rhymes.

The ABC song is the same melody we learned as we watch the video by Cocomelon and as she writes the letters on a green chalk board just like ours and our children. The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano. Music done well never dies.

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.

Highlights for children

A husband and wife team began a magazine in 1946 to give children Fun with a purpose(their tagline). And it worked giving children the encouragement to learn in all different avenues that included stories, art work, puzzles, games and for me as a child, finding the hidden picture. It took me awhile learn to read, write and comprehend but I could not take my eyes off the picture page whether I checked it out at school or in a doctor’s office where Highlights were found for many Baby Boomers. Highlights encouraged to me read and now celebrating 75 years, Highlights has a book that is collection of just hidden pictures. I have placed my order.

Founder Garry Meyers and his wife were teachers of illiterate soldiers and became nationally known in education for a column called Parent Problems and co-authored many books before starting Highlights. There first copies only sold approximately 20,000 copies in 1995 they sold over 2 million. Highlights circulation numbers declined by 2015, and the magazine announced that it would move some content onto tablets and mobile devices with the help of San Francisco startup, Fingerprint Digital, led by former LeapFrog Enterprises executive Nancy MacIntyre. The magazine launched a new mobile app Highlights Every Day, in April 2017.

Highlights today offers clubs and a variety of magazines including Highlights Magazine ages 6-12, High Five Magazine which focuses on pre-school ages 2-6 and Hello Magazine. With new discoveries in every issue, HELLO magazine is made for babies and toddlers. Durable, wipe-clean pages and stitched binding means they’ll enjoy it all month. They offer a great collection of picture, puzzle, arts and craft, sticker and game books for all ages besides the magazine as well great gift bundles. It’s never too early to inspire a love of reading!

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.