Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gangster Peace Conference at the Sherman House

Autumn of 1926 saw Chicago's gangsters involved in a dangerous and bloody cycle of violence. In late September, Schemer Drucci and Bugs Moran and Hymie Weiss had shot up Capone's Cicero headquarters. Within days, Capone had ordered the assassination of Weiss on the street in front of O'Banion's Flower Shop.

On October 20, Capone arranged a peace conference with the Northsiders, held at the Hotel Sherman, at Clark and Randolph. "Big" Bill Thompson, the former Chicago mayor who was planning a political comeback, served as the impartial mediator.

The Northsiders demanded that O'Banion's assassins, Scalisi and Anselmi, be punished by Capone. But even they seemed to have been impressed with Capone's earnestness for peace. He argued:
I couldn't stand hearing my little kid ask why I didn't stay home [in Chicago]. I had been living in the Hawthorne Inn [in Cicero] for fourteen months....If it wasn't for him I'd have said, 'To hell with you fellows! We'll shoot it out.' But I couldn't say that, knowing it might mean they'd bring me home some night punctured with machine gun fire.
The conference led to a general amnesty between the gangs, in which all murders performed in the past were considered closed with no further repercussions. Drucci and Moran would control the Northside areas of the city near the lake, and Capone would control the Southside below Madison, plus Cicero. There was not a single gangland murder for 70 days after the conference, the longest period without gang violence in years.

The Sherman House, which was originally built in 1837 by Francis Sherman (father to William Tecumseh Sherman, the famed Civil War general), had been rebuilt after the Great Fire as the poshest hotel in town, and was one of the first establishments in Chicago to offer jazz entertainment to white audiences. The hotel remained open until 1973, and was razed in 1980 to make way for the State of Illinois Center, later renamed the James R. Thompson Center, pictured here. Possibly Chicago's most unusual building, the Thompson Center is either an architectural masterpiece or a hideous spaceship/toilet, depending upon who you ask.


Joe Jakubik said...

Jeez- how about a picture of the actual Sherman House?

Anonymous said...

Joe -- because the intent of this particular blog is to show contemporary images of these locations. There are countless images of the old Sherman House available online -- try Google (or Alta Vista.) Maybe you could create your own blog?? Jeez Luis.

Anonymous said...

The father to William Tecumseh Sherman was Charles Robert Sherman (1788 - 1829), not Francis Sherman. After being dead for eight years, he could not have built the Sherman House in 1837. The person who built the Sherman House was Francis Cornwall Sherman (1805 - 1870) whose son, Francis Trowbridge Sherman, was also a general in the Union Army during the civil war. They are frequently confused and miscredited, but not necessarily related.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Joe on this one... Showing only the contemporary photo... ESPECIALLY in this case... is a horrible idea. Not only that... your facts are wrong. Why not show the original and the contemporary picture? And maybe you should get to know Google a bit better yourself...

Don said...

I would just like to point out that the entire blog consists of only photos of current (at the the of the writing) views of these locations. So it seems appropriate here, too.
Francis Cornwall Sherman is buried at Graceland Cemetery and served three terms as Mayor of Chicago. Elected to one term at age 36 in 1841 and then two consecutive terms starting 21 years later. He did own the Sherman House and had it rebuilt after the Fire as one of the 'Big Four' hotels in the city as it recovered.

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