Al Capone has become a hot name in the world of celebrity real estate. Blame it, perhaps, on the popularity of television shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Two homes formerly owned by the Prohibition era gangster are currently up for grabs, history lessons included.
The glitzier of the two options occupies a 30,000-square foot lot on Palm Island in Miami Beach, Fla. Capone purchased the property from Clarence Busch of the Anheuser-Busch dynasty in 1928. He added two guardhouses, a grotto, and a massive 30-foot-by-60-foot salt water swimming pool that touted fish and three accompanying diving boards. He reportedly threw lavish parties and is believed to have planned the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre here. After his prison stint for income tax evasion, the retreat served as his main residence until his 1947 death, when he passed of cardiac arrest in the main house’s upstairs master suite. Local rumor claims the house is haunted, though the listing agent claims otherwise.
The price for an infamous piece of 20th Century American history on Biscayne Bay: $9.95 million. That hefty sum includes updated buildings with the original light fixtures and glass window panes, the massive swimming pool (sans fish), the restored grotto, and a front gate with the original number “93″ still affixed.
“When you pull anything about Miami Beach history, this house always pops up,” says Jorge Alonso, the Douglas Elliman Real Estate broker representing the property. Interested buyers — who must be carefully screened thanks to the fact that Capone memorabilia has a rapacious fan following — have hailed from the Northeastern U.S., France and Russia. No Italians have inquired about the home. Neither have any hip hop celebrities, a moneyed buyer base Alonso initially suspected would express interest. ”The people that are coming to see this right now are doing so for the historical value.”
In Chicago, the red brick, two-flat house that Capone purchased for his family in 1923 wants a significantly smaller sum: $225,000. Located on Chi-Town’s far South Side, Capone bought this house after relocating from New York to work for local mobster Johnny Torrio. Capone lived here for the next eight years,until his prison conviction in 1931. He occupied the first floor with his wife and children; his brother and other extended family members occupied the second floor.
The Capone name, as is typically the case with celebrity homes, does not add tangible value to a property. It does serve as a marketing tool to differentiate these homes from their neighboring competition. Even so, a sale such namedropping does not necessarily make. The owners tried selling the Chicago house in 2009 for $450,000 before pulling it back off the market in 2010. This time around, the property, currently asking 50% less, has already suffered one price chop.
With the help of Realtor.com and Trulia.com, we rounded up a collection of homes peddling notorious pasts. Many are currently up for grabs. All of them have nefarious histories and in many cases, previous owners infamous for their law-breaking.
In general a handful of homes toting Depression-era gangster ties have burst onto the sale block this year. The nine and a half acre Oklawaha, Fla. property where Kate “Ma” Barker was gunned down in one of the biggest FBI shootouts in American history hit the auction block in August. With a minimum suggested offer price of $1 million, bids were collected until the beginning of October (sale details have yet to be disclosed). The Barker-Karpis gang rented the four bedroom lakefront abode and used it as a hideout in 1935. In a four-hour gun battle, Ma Barker was shot to death on the second floor. Little has changed since the Feds carted her body away nearly 80 years ago: aside from the updated kitchen, the fixtures and the furniture have remained the same. The couch remains peppered with bullets and the holes are still identifiable in the plastered-over walls.