Al Capone stories and rumors are everywhere. Even here in the Sunshine City.
During tours I'm asked whether or not Al Capone hung out in St Pete. Or people heard he once owned a speakeasy called the Gangplank or Tropicana Field...
Last century I remember a big mustachioed buffoon playing the part of investigative reporter (let's call him Gerald) and he convinced a good number of Americans to waste 2 hours of their lives as he opened up Al Capone's secret vault LIVE on TV! What did they find? How many bodies were behind the brick wall? What secrets would be revealed?!?
Nothing. What a freaking let down.
They found an old stop sign.
And a couple of bottles.
That's it. Oh, and dirt. Lots of dirt.
It seems we all want to believe Capone was here in the Sunshine City engaging in untold nefarious shenanigans. Local historian/author and knowledgable dude Will Michaels has looked into Capone and his relation to St Pete. Capone's former boss Johnny Torrio lived part time in several locations around St Pete (his mother-in-law lived here) after he "retired" from the mob.
It's possible Capone might've visited Torrio on occasion, but...there's no evidence of this. Michaels' conclusion: while Capone and his mobster buddys owned property in Florida and St Pete, it's unlikely he spent more than a few hours in town. Records are scarce and holdings were often put in someone else's name. So nothing can be confirmed at this point.
Every so often you'll hear about Capone's old house on Shore Acres. The one he supposedly built for his mother.
There's fish on the fireplace mantle, obviously a mafioso sign!
And it has a gazillion windows no doubt to keep a watchful eye on the rival North Side Gang! (if someone's shooting at me a greenhouse is the last place I try to hide)
My theory is whomever lists the house when it's up for sell promotes it as rumored to be Al Capone's house. Why not get a premium for what is a rather dumpy house?
Regarding the stories about one of St Pete's speakeasies: for the record Walter Fuller owned and operated the Gangplank speakeasy (now Jungle Tavern). A place that was popular with Babe Ruth, but Fuller said Capone was never in St Pete much less the Gangplank. So it's doubtful the old safe there contains anything more than a some old bottles and maybe a stop sign.
Capone did buy an isolated property of Palm Island and build a mansion on it down near Miami, where eventually died from complications of syphilis after getting out of the hoosegow. It's far more likely he would've hung out in South Florida than St Pete.
I was chatting with a neighbor the other day who informed me Al Capone owned the land where the Bay Pines VA is located. Furthermore, according to him, Capone lost the property during his tax evasion conviction. He said he wasn't sure where he heard the story, but thought it was during his job orientation. The truth of the matter is during the depression local politicians offered to donate the land to the federal Gov't in an effort to provide locals with jobs.
And so the stories continue. Did I ever tell you the one about Al Capone being my great-great-godfather?
Rev B has nearly been published multiple times and has received letters of rejection from Highlights, Jet Magazine, Dear Abby and The New Yorker. While accepting full responsibility for all grammatical errors he makes no claims of being an author. Please enjoy the entries found here and use the search function if you're looking for something more specific.