Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Capone's Cicero Headquarters


Al Capone's Chicago headquarters were the Four Deuces, the Metropole Hotel, and later, the Lexington Hotel. But in Cicero, the town his syndicate owned, from the Mayor to the streetsweepers, business was chiefly transacted at the Hawthorne Inn, at 4833 W. 22nd Street.

After Capone's violent takeover of the town of Cicero in the election of 1924, he set up shop at the Hawthorne, fitting it with bullet-proof shutters and surrounding every entrance with battalions of armed guards. This was the true city hall in Cicero, the center of power, and when orders emerged from the Hawthorne Inn, even the mayor, Joseph Z. Klenha, jumped.

It was at the Hawthorne that Dion O'Banion began his double-crossing scheme, telling Capone and Johnny Torrio that he planned to leave the bootlegging game for greener pastures out West, leading to Torrio's arrest at Sieben Brewery, O'Banion's assassination, and Torrio's brush with death.

Having failed to kill Torrio, O'Banion's henchmen attempted to avenge their slain leader's life with a direct frontal attack on the Hawthorne Inn on September 20, 1926. On that date, Al Capone was eating lunch on the first floor of the Hawthorne. At 1:15 p.m., the sound of machine gun fire echoed through the restaurant, sending the waiters and patrons running out the back. Capone and his bodyguard hit the deck as a car passed by and the sound of bullets intensified.

Once the gunfire ceased, Capone arose unharmed and ran to the door, ready to get a good look at his assailants. Suddenly he noticed something odd: despite hundreds of bullets, not a thing was broken in the restaurant. The apparent drive-by shooting was a decoy, and only blanks had been fired, in an attempt to draw Capone out of the restaurant to his death. With this sudden realization, Capone's bodyguard tackled him, just as a caravan of seven Lincolns, headed by Schemer Drucci, Bugs Moran, and Hymie Weiss, passed by the Hawthorne, practically razing the hotel with machine gun fire. Almost 1000 shots were fired into the establishment, but again the Northsiders were frustrated: not one person, and certainly not Capone, was killed.

In retaliation, Capone ordered the hit on Hymie Weiss at O'Banion's flower shop, and the cycle of violence between the Capone Outfit and the North side gang continued to intensify.

The Hawthorne Inn remained open until 1970, and during much of that time, it remained a mob hangout. Today, the location is the parking lot for a bank.

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