Al Capone and Gangster History

Chicago in the 1920’s was a city of political corruption and gang warfare, and the embodiment of the failure of Prohibition. Three of its key figures happen to be buried near each other in an old Catholic cemetery outside of Chicago. This cemetery just happens to be right near my house.

I will admit that I find cemeteries interesting, and not creepy (not during the daytime anyway!). They carry a very local history, and allow us some small but tangible connection to the past. It has been on my to-do list for some time now, to walk through the Mount Carmel Catholic cemetery, where the notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone is buried.

The beginning of Prohibition in 1920, which made the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal, was just the beginning of Chicago’s problems. If Chicago was already known for corruption, then Prohibition was the impetus for an alliance between organized crime and corrupt politicians. “As Prohibition laws were openly violated and men were murdered on crowded streets, notorious criminals made little effort to conceal the weapons they invariably carried”.1

In the early 1920’s, rival gangs battled for their share of the city and the profits. The Irish-American Dean “Dion” O’Banion led the North Side Gang, against his Italian-American rival Al Capone and his Mob. Dion was the first to lose the fight when he was murdered in 1924 by Mob gangsters, in the back room of Schofield’s flower shop. He was initially buried in unconsecrated ground at Mount Carmel, because of his gangster lifestyle, but was later moved to consecrated ground. 2

Dean or 'Dion' O'Banion, the Irish-American mobster.

Dean or ‘Dion’ O’Banion, the Irish-American mobster.

The grave marker for Dion O'Banion, North Side rival of Al Capone/

The grave marker for Dion O’Banion, North Side rival of Al Capone.

O’Banion’s murder ushered in “a period of vicious, almost uninterrupted, gang warfare that lasted until Al Capone’s conviction for tax evasion in October of 1931”. 3

There were to be more startling murders, particularly the St Valentines Day Massacre, and just over a year later, the murder in broad daylight of Chicago Tribune crime reporter Alfred “Jake” Lingle. Any confidence in the Police Dept. to control gang violence seemed to be lost, but the murder of a reporter caused a firestorm in the press. Only later did it become known that Lingle had been playing both sides, and had a questionable income that was well above his Tribune salary.

The grave marker of Jake Lingle's family, a Chicago Tribune reporter during the 1920s.

The grave marker of Jake Lingle’s family, a Chicago Tribune reporter during the 1920s.

The inability of Chicago Police or any political officials to apprehend the gangsters reeked of political corruption, but “the Lingle murder marked a new seriousness in the war on crime”. 4

If Chicagoans could have guessed that it would not be local law enforcement that would eventually arrest Capone, but that the federal government would have that honor, they would have been angrier still. Capone was convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. He eventually died from syphilis, and several of his family members are also buried in this prominent spot at Mount Carmel Cemetery. 5

The Capone gravesite gets frequent visitors at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The Capone gravesite gets frequent visitors at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The gravesite of the Capone family; individual family markers lay in the ground before it.

The gravesite of the Capone family; individual family markers lay in the ground before it.

1. Mcdonough, Daniel. “Chicago Press Treatment of the Gangster, 1924-1931.”Illinois Historical Journal 82.1 (1989): 17-32. JSTOR. Web. 06 July 2014. <;.
3 & 4. Mcdonough, Daniel. “Chicago Press Treatment of the Gangster, 1924-1931.”Illinois Historical Journal 82.1 (1989): 17-32.

Open House Chicago 2013

October marked a second successful Open House Chicago event by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, where historic sites and businesses opened their doors to the public for one grand weekend. I mentioned it in a post last year, at their inaugural event (

My personal affinity to Tribune Tower led me to visit there again. Instead of the penthouse office they opened up last year, this time they displayed one of the old refurbished press rooms in the basement. The sight was rather underwhelming, but I enjoyed seeing the track lines for carts that at one time carried enormous rolls of newsprint for the paper. If you have 20 minutes to kill, watch this 1937 educational video on the process, entitled “Trees to Tribune”(

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint


Imagining those giant paper rolls running down the underground tracks

This next picture is actually my favorite, because I was so proud of myself to have spotted this significant cornerstone in the Tribune building. I can’t recommend people to go see it, as its in a spot not technically on public property. But the cornerstone is located below street level on Wacker, by the employee parking lot. I’ve juxtaposed it with a historic photo of Robert McCormick at an outdoor ceremony in the same location in 1920. So much history is here.


An unseen corner of this building, when it was first dedicated!

After leaving Tribune Tower with my friends, my zig-zagged our way down and around Michigan Ave, visiting historic interiors like the Monroe Building and Fine Arts Building, and the swanky office of a modern architectural firm. Some Open House Chicago (OHC) locations are always open to the public, but the event gives you the excuse to walk around and explore. Below is a picture of the Empire Room at the Palmer House Hotel, where a set of Bertha Palmer’s extravagant gold-rimmed dinner service was on display.


Inside the publicly accessible Palmer House Hotel

Wanting to also visit something that was not normally accessible, we checked out the Cliff Dwellers private club dedicated to the arts, on the penthouse of the Symphony Center. As far as private clubs go, the interior was rather sparse and reserved, but illustrious members have included Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Carl Sandburg, Lorado Taft and many others. The most impressive part was the view from the terrace, with all of the lakefront laid out before your eyes!


Dining room of the private club, the “Cliff Dwellers”, dedicated to the arts


View from the terrace of the Cliff Dwellers private club

These are just a few highlights, but I hope to be back next year to explore a new neighborhood. Afterall, its so fun to act like a tourist in your own city!

Chicago History!

McCormick Museum

I’ve started volunteering at the Robert R. McCormick Museum this summer as a way to get some experience in museums. Since I wanted to work in museums, I figured this was a good way to get my feet wet!

The museum lies in the middle of McCormick’s large estate, which is now Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL. The museum is the home of Colonel McCormick, who was best known for being chief editor of the Chicago Tribune during the first half of the 20th century. It was an era when the news was more about personality than objectivity.

So, I volunteer as a tour guide leading groups on a half hour tour of the first floor of the house. I talk about the Colonel and his two wives, about the rooms, the artifacts, and the history of the family. Knowing all this Chicago history makes me love the city even more. For instance, the Colonel’s grandfather Joseph Medill started working at the Tribune when it was only a small paper. He championed the creation of the Republican Party, and helped get Abraham Lincoln elected president. He later became the mayor of Chicago after the Fire of 1871 and penned the famous editorial “Chicago Shall Rise Again!” Cool stuff, right?

Reflecting Pool on the South Lawn

Haunted Halloween Bash to benefit local food pantry

feedback bandLooking for something exciting to do on Halloween? Interested in some live music, food, a costume contest and more? The boys of local alternative rock group ‘Feedback’ are hosting a Haunted Halloween Bash at the Yorkfield Civic Center starting at 5pm on Saturday, October 31st, and all are welcome! There will be a $3 cover charge at the door to support our local food pantry. Non-perishable items are also welcome, as well as candy donations to send to our troops overseas.

Jim Terrafino age 9, Jeremy Whitmore age 10, Bennett Berman age 10, Tony Tedeschi age 14, and Jack Hayden age 14 make up ‘Feedback’. The band of two years plays rock songs from the likes of Black Sabbath, The Who, The Clash, Antiflag and Social Distortion. Feedback will be performing live at the benefit event which will include dancing, karaoke, prize raffles, a costume contest and complimentary hot dogs, chips, pop, popcorn and hot chocolate. Come out for some Halloween fun, and support the cause!

The Yorkfield Civic Center is located at 15 W 354 Lexington, in Elmhurst, just 1 block east of the light at York Rd and Lexington.

Church Group Finds Adventure in Colorado

On July 12, Grace Bible Church of Elmhurst sent 53 individuals to Fraser, Colorado for a week of adventure and intense spiritual conversation.

For the week long trip, the students spent their days enjoying the breathtaking Colorado landscape at Timberline Lodge. According to their website, “Timberline Lodge serves within the body of Christ, ministering to youth and youth leadership in a community setting for the purpose of building on the only sure foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ through biblical teaching, Christian discipleship, outdoor adventure and service to others.”

The group consisted of 45 high school students and 8 adult leaders engaging in a wide variety of activities and challenges each day. Each day was a bit different, but the common element of every day was the small group discussion sessions. The main focus of discussion during the week was about a video series entitled Gospel Journey Maui. In the series young people from all different faiths come together for extreme outdoor adventure, and discussion, asking the question ‘Can everyone be right?’

In a typical day the group watched an episode from the series, and discussed in meetings and small groups the questions and issues presented. Students attempted to tackle such difficult and significant questions as ‘what is your purpose in life?’, ‘what happens after we die?’, and ‘who is Jesus?’ The goal for many students was to learn to articulate what they believe and be able to share it with friends and family back home.

Rachel Fogle, one of the adult leaders on the trip said that it was particularly exciting for the students when one of the cast members from the series came to the camp. He encouraged the students to take what he called the “48 hour challenge”, to share their faith with someone with 48 hours of returning home. One student responded that he wanted to take the challenge, but didn’t want it to end there. “What comes next? Who will I share my faith with after that?”, he said. Many students were equally challenged by the message.

The rest of the group’s time was spent in team building exercises and outdoor activities. Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and whitewater rafting down the Arkansas River were some highlights for the students, and the inspiring landscape was the perfect backdrop for their spiritual discussions. Fogle commented that the group was drawn closer together through the experience. “The details just kept coming together; the Lord’s hand was so evident throughout the trip”. More information can be found on the group’s trip blog at


My First Printed Article: Italian Meetup

Since March of this year, the Oak Brook Italian Language Group has met once a month at the Panera Bread by the Oak Brook Shopping Center to share in their common love of Italian. Attendance at these meetings has steadily grown, doubling from five to ten at their meeting just this past week. As a part of the online networking site, The Oak Brook Italian Language Group is one of many active social and special interest groups from the website that meet in the Chicago suburbs.

Wednesday’s evening meeting at Panera brought together an interesting mix of people from the area, all interested in improving their language skills in Italian. Skill levels varied from the nervous beginner to the nearly fluent, and all had unique connections to Italian culture, whether through family, travel, or purely for enjoyment. Beginners in Italian listened in on multiple conversations, but inevitably, a more advanced speaker might coax them out of their shell. “If you don’t try because you’re afraid, you’ll never learn” said one member Pete Falco. Having studied language and Italian literature in school, Pete joined the group in hopes of maintaining his Italian.

For other members, this group may serve to help them practice what they’ve learned in class or on vacation. Many members have had the wonderful opportunity to travel in Italy, and meeting up with Italian speakers once a month is a great way to reminisce and share their experiences. Or on the other hand, many have Italian-American relatives and have grown up in that culture. One member said “If you miss Italy and want to speak Italian, this is the group for you. You will feel right at home, as if you are with friends in Italy”.

Not to scare off those whose language skills are rusty, there is always room for conversation in English. The point is to practice and improve, but also to enjoy conversation with new people. But as the saying goes, practice makes perfect! The next meeting is set to take place on July 8th at 6:30pm, at Panera Bread, 1600 16th St in Oak Brook.

Oak Brook Italian Language Group