James "Big Jim" Colosimo was the first great Chicago mobster, considered by many to be the founder of "the Outfit." He lived in a large home at this location, 3156 S. Vernon.
Born in Italy, Colosimo came to Chicago as a teenager and, in 1897, became a sweeper with the "white wings," a city-funded group that cleaned manure out of the streets. Big Jim was a natural leader and soon organized the streetsweepers union. He parlayed that job into political power, which he used to become the city's king of vice for over 20 years.
Colosimo married into the vice business, his wife Victoria being a brothel owner, and together with Maurice Van Bever, the gang ran a profitable white slavery ring in the 1910s and 1920s. Van Bever was imprisoned in 1909. Together with the Mona Marshall case, Van Bever's trial brought public opinion to bear on interstate prostitution traffic, leading to the passage of the Mann Act in1910. Van Bever's absence opened up a top position in the gang for Johnny Torrio, who at that time was in charge of Colosimo's biggest brothel, the Saratoga. It was Torrio who later brought Al Capone to Chicago to help him run the gang after Colosimo's death.
Colosimo's house was not far from his chief place of business, Colosimo's Cafe, which for many years before and after Big Jim's death, was a place to be seen for the city's power elite. It was to this home that Colosimo brought his second wife, the beautiful young singer and actress Dale Winter, whom he loved dearly and hoped to retire with from the vice trade. Unfortunately for Big Jim, he died within a month of his marriage, shot by an assassin, most likely Frankie Yale, working on behalf of his friend and Colosimo's protege, Johnny Torrio.
The site of Colosimo's home is now a quiet South side park.