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

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.

Add Italian flare to your summer activities

By Caryl Clem:

Imagine any favorite fruit, strawberry, watermelon, mango, lemon surrounded by sweetened ice ready to burst into flavor inside your mouth on a hot summer day.   An Italian treat for centuries, Italian Ice can be located at over 30 locations in the Chicago area according to the updated August 2020 Yelp cite.  Foursquare  released in July their top choices for Italian Ice with critic reviews to inspire your next taste bud adventure.

The original Italian Ices’ basic ingredients are fruit, cane sugar and ice In Sicilian granita recipes. Traditional Italian Ice is healthier as a summertime dessert because it contains no dairy butterfat which intensifies the taste of fruit. The sugar ratio is low compared to other ingredients, a plus for anyone counting calories. Another advantage, tart fruit in Italian Ice will trigger salivation resulting in a thirst quenching feeling.  From the Food Network Kitchen, a simple recipe for Italian Ice contained 3 cups halved strawberries or pineapple, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 2 Tablespoons honey, 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice first blended with 2 cups ice, and then blended with 1 more cup ice.

From the mountains as historian food writer Jeffrey Steingarten has documented the snow from Mount Etna created the frozen stage for the birth of ice cream concoctions. By the 16th century, the influential families in Florence, Italy were delighted by the frozen sensation invented by Bernardo Buontalenti, a native of Florence. He had his own version of an iced dessert  His popular treat made it to Paris where it was called Sorbet, while in Italy it was named, Gelato. This version of Italian ice cream does contain egg yolks and milk.

Another Italian custom, vacation time is expected.  Ferragosto on August 15 is a national holiday celebrated by festivals. Originally a custom started by the Emperor Augustus, it signaled a “break” from hard labor in the fields before harvest time in late September.  The Catholic Church declared August 15 as a day to honor the Virgin Mary and her assumption into heaven. Before modern technology, relaxing the entire month of August was commonly practiced.

In Chicago, over 10 Italian churches stand, testaments to customs and traditions still practiced today. The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, built in 1910 on Lexington was threatened with closure in 1993, A committee was set up to save the church involving alderman, prominent businessmen and a hospital administrator raised funds to save the church that hosts Italian events throughout the year. This is still the oldest continuing Italian church. If you love Italian architecture, visit the churches and experience history.

Italians shaped many sections in Chicago we love today. Whether you travel down Harlem Avenue, go to Highwood, Blue Island, Chicago Heights, Melrose Park, Maxwell Street Market, or Taylor Street in Little Italy, ;  relish the experience of Italian traditions in summer.

Chicago’s Oak Street Beach

It was in the 1970’s during my high school and college years that I remember traveling with friends to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach for a summer field trip from the south suburbs of the city. We would also pick out high rise apartment buildings we wanted to live in after college. And I remember it crowded with beach chairs, towels, bicycles and of course, numerous bathers and acrobatics. I remember male friends wanting to be a life guard as a summer job there; where prestigious life began. Oak Street Beach is located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street and Lake Michigan near the Gold Coast/Streeterville neighborhoods.

According to the Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park and Lake Shore Drive suffered constant damage from storms and lake shore erosion. The city built a breakwater made of pilings, planks, and stone on the lake’s edge between Oak Street and North Avenue in the 1870’s. This device could not protect Lake Shore Drive, so in the late 1880s, the commissioners began working with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a seawall between Fullerton and North Avenues to provide better protection. Lake Shore Drive was also extended south from Oak Street to Ohio Street.

The park district claims property owners helped pay for the landfill extension, which included a breakwater to protect the lake shore and roadway from erosion. Constructed in the 1890s, the project included a 50-foot-wide roadway as well as an extensive granite-paved beach, stone sidewalks, bicycle path, bridle path, and luxury lawns with elegant trees.

The beach was extremely popular in the early 1900’s but rich, mansion property owners complained about how small it was so it was extended in 1923. My father remembers living in the city in those early years as a child attending the beach. According to sources, over 50,000 visitors were known to travel to the beach during that time.The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful history on all Chicago area parks and when they can be used.

Today, Oak Street has gone through many renovations and has a outdoor cafe though with Covid restrictions, not available at this time. Currently, the beach is closed but when opened, you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas. Of course, public restrooms are available. Usually, various vendors carts are seen along the path. Besides swimming, many beach goers play volleyball or just sit, taking pictures of amazing sunrises and sunsets. Still, a beautiful place to visit.

Photo courtesy of Greg Wass

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

Ice cream facts

By Caryl Clem:

Surviving Italian Florentine rebellions, at the tender age of 14, Catherine d’Medici was to wed the second eldest son of the King of France, Henry Orleans in 1533.  Her two loves, ice cream and high heels are still around today.  She had purchased a recipe for ice cream from a goat and chicken farmer who won a contest her family sponsored. This frozen dessert won instant popularity after it was served at her wedding.  As a short new bride, Catherine wanted to ensure her grand entrance before the Royal Court of France; a stunning pair of custom made high heels was a fashion first.   Catherine became Queen of France in 1536 bearing 10 children with her husband.

Since 1686, a café that entertained the greatest thinkers in Paris was Café Procope . Famous clientele included Voltaire famous French author against tyranny, Diderot, inventor of modern encyclopedia organization, Americans Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington discussed world issues over coffee and ice cream.

The first recipe for ice cream used by George Washington in America had 21 steps.  Rich mansion owners had underground ice houses for blocks of ice cut in the winter.  Only the wealthy could afford the necessary ingredients.

Before Chicago, Philadelphia was an ice cream “hot spot”. Quaker schoolteacher named Louis Dubois Bassett set out to make high-quality ice creams on his rural New Jersey farm.

Fast forward to the late 1800’s when Chicago enters the ice cream market limelight.  Early vendors hawked their half Penney and Penny licks ice cream from reused, rinsed, small hand held glass containers.  Italian vendors sounded like they were saying, Hockey Pokey’s.  Believed but not proven, the more sanitary ice cream wafer cone happened at a World’s Fair Exhibition in St. Louis.  An ice cream vendor ran out of glass containers so he paired business with his neighbor selling thin wafers, rolling them then placing a scoop on top.

Gone but not forgotten the Buffalo ice Cream Parlor in Chicago.  Elaborate décor of cherubs dancing murals on the walls, leaded glass windows, rich dark walnut wood and marble top counters, amid the whirl of 20 malt mixers concocting heavenly combinations.  The Buffalo offered a perfect place to escape reality and enjoy sumptuous ice cream desserts.  The original Buffalo in Chicago opened in 1902 moving to the Irving Park in 1918.  The new location had the Commodore Theatre across the street.  Now a Shell Gas Station stands has replaced the spot ice cream was enjoyed.

At the end of the civil war, a jobless William Breyer started hand-cranking ice cream in his kitchen in Kensington outside Philadelphia then selling it to neighbors.  He was the first using a wagon equipped with a loud dinner bell to announce his location.  Breyer’s reputation rests on simple good for you ingredients for over 150 years. The cream, cane sugar, fruits and nuts ingredient base became known as the Philadelphia American style ice cream.  During the 1960’s only ice cream parlors sold the number one rated Breyers.  In the 1970’s, Breyers joined the Kraft product line.  A suburb favorite, Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream.

In Oak Park, Petersen’s Ice Cream has been in business over 80 years. Founded by a Greek immigrant, his son, Dean Poulos, reports that his grandfather’s secret ingredient was butterfat. With décor from the 1919 era complete with tin ceiling tiles is Petersen’s Ice Cream Shop. Exploring Chicago’s ice cream history is definitely a summer treat.

Buffalo Ice Cream photo Courtesy of Patrick Crane

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.

 

 

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.