Chicago: Al Capone lived here

February 16, 2010 3:32:01 PM PST
Al Capone and Chicago. Chicago and Al Capone. It's an image the city has been fighting for years. But now a sign proudly proclaims that Big Al lived there.

Michigan and Cermak doesn't look anything now like it did in the 1920s and 30s. Back then two luxury hotels-- The Metropole and The Lexington-- were the center of those roaring times. The Chicago Department of Transportation has placed a sign there pointing out the architectural significance of those buildings. That sign also indicates that that is where Al Capone and his gang were headquartered-- and city officials almost never like to connect Big Al with Big Shoulders.

The Metropole and Lexington hotels are long gone now- replaced by condos. Their memory is fading. But the memory of Al Capone just never seems to go away. And for the first time, as far as ABC7 can tell, the city is actually promoting a connection between Al Capone and the city of Chicago. Not everyone is happy about it.

"It's very sad that the city has to celebrate Chicago with memories of a not too pleasant past. But since we're basing tourist attractions on notorious citizens I'm looking forward to the next John Wayne Gacy ... plaque," said Dominic Di Frisco, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

Dominic Di Frisco has seen enough of Italian guilt by Capone association. But at the Chicago History Museum, history is, well, history.

"To really understand Chicago you really have to look at all of it. You can't shy away from the violent unsavory parts. You have to look at the good, the bad and the ugly," said John Russick, senior curator Chicago History Museum.

ABC7 called the city's department of transportation several times about the sign and received no response. But DiFrisco has his.

"The time has come for us to say, 'Basta,' a beautiful Italian word which means enough," said Dominic Difrisco.

Fifteen years ago, just before demolition, the Lexington Hotel had also seen enough. The aged beauty had spent too much time with a bad crowd.