Monday, September 1, 2008

O'Banion's Flower Shop


The first great North side gangster was Dion O'Banion, who ruled from this location at 736 N. State St.

O'Banion was the Renaissance man of crime, a professional singer who was a talented pickpocket and safe-cracker. But the great love of O'Banion's life was floral arrangement, for which he had a passion and talent. In the halcyon days of gangland, it was customary to send flowers to the funeral of a man you shot, and O'Banion supplied the goods for most of the underworld's needs. In was at his flower shop that he ran his gang, and it was at the flower shop, while working late at night on arrangements needed for the next morning, that he was assassinated by Mike Genna, and the famous assassins, Scalisi and Anselmi, in November, 1924., at the behest -- or at least with the indifference of -- Al Capone and Johnny Torrio. O'Banion was Torrio's North Side operative, but was restless and eventually betrayed Torrio to the police in an elaborate scheme. It was O'Banion who coined the famous gangland phrase, "To Hell with the Sicilians." Men like O'Banion did not last long in those days. After his death, O'Banion's gang was later led by Bugs Moran, who moved the headquarters north to a garage on N. Clark Street, the site of the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Despite the value of this property, located in Chicago's Gold Coast just two blocks from the tourist meccas of N. Michigan Ave., the location of O'Banion's flower shop is a strangely nearly empty block which serves largely as a parking lot for the Holy Name Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago, which was built in 1874. O'Banion had served in this church as a choir boy, and due to his infamy, the rector refused to allow his funeral service to be held there.

11 comments:

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I have been told that O'Banion flower shop is located in an empty block because it is their marketing strategy. People who walk on the that street might be blue, so they will decide to buy flowers

Anonymous said...

I am the great great Grandson of Dion. I would like to know more about him and what his life wass like. If anyone can help out please let me kno

Joe Paschen said...

Look up an extensive bio book on yer great-great-grandDa called, "Guns and Roses" by Rose Keefe.

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Anonymous said...

Sorry buddy...you can't be Dion's g-g grandson...he didn't have any children. However, the family has two spellings of the last name. O'Banion and O'Bannon. I am related on the O'Bannon branch. My mother has been doing our family genealogy for years. If you're an O'Bannon (or O'Banion) you're also related to Marine Corp hero Presley Neville O'Bannon.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when the former Schofield/O'Banion building was razed?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am the great-niece of Albert Anselmi...Would any of you be able to tell me where I might find a historically accurate list of all flower shops in the Chicago area between 1924-1929??? As a young girl, my cousins & I remember our great-grandmother, Carmella, teling us stories about Capone. My grandmother, Albert's niece, has always refused to speak about the violent & corrupt events which caused my family to flee Chicago in 1929 & start over in New York. I have been doing a lot of research My great grandfather, Albert's brother, worked as a florist during this time period but as I said before, my grandmother refuses to tell me the name of the shop or give me any additional incriminating information on my great uncle & the historic events which took place prior to his brutal death.

Anonymous said...

The flower shop building that Dion O'Banion rented was actually owned by my great grandmother. I do not know what happened to it. The family was silent over the notoriety and didn't speak of it. Obanion did threaten to kill my grandfather once. grabbing him by neck when he was sent to ask for the rent money. He made the mistake of doing this while O'Banions associates were in the office. I was young when my Grandparents passed away, and was told this just a few years ago by my father who is also now gone. I believe the building is long gone and was across the street from the church.

Anthony O'Banion said...

idk how far related to him i am but ive been growing up sorta like dion its really wierd and sad but insted of my mother it was my father but any way ur prolly my cusion