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The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 82 Years On

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Al Capone

Al Capone came to Chicago from Brooklyn in 1919, and soon became head of the Chicago mob, raking in millions a year in both illegal and legitimate industries. But the height of his infamy came in 1929, when he ordered the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Capone’s associates gunned down seven people inside a warehouse at 2122 N. Clark St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood – which was used by rival bootlegger George “Bugs” Moran. (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – In Chicago, Valentine’s Day conjures more images in the popular mind than just flowers, chocolate and heart-shaped boxes.

It’s also the anniversary of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, still one of the city’s most sensational and infamous crimes. This Valentine’s Day marks the 82nd anniversary of the crime.

As Troy Taylor’s historical essay “Blood, Roses and Valentines” recalls, it all started in 1924 with murder of gang leader Dion O’Banion, who was the chief competition to Chicago Outfit leader Johnny Torrio in the bootleg liquor business. O’Banion controlled the North Side operation, Torrio the South Side.

After a brewery acquisition deal between the two men went bad, Torrio ordered a hit on O’Banion. The North Side gang vowed revenge, and a five-year war between the two gangs began.

Torrio himself was later shot and seriously wounded. While he would survive his wounds and live to the age of 75, he decided to give up control of the Outfit to Al Capone.

Capone’s gang went on to take out Hymie Weiss, leaving the North Side bootlegging operation in the hands of George “Bugs” Moran, a bitter enemy of Capone’s whom he wanted nothing more than to take out, Taylor recounted.

Early in 1929, Moran and a henchman killed Pasquillano Lolordo, a Capone associate, and Capone decided to have Moran done away with once and for all, Taylor recounted.

Capone arranged to have someone contact Moran and tell him a special shipment of bootleg whiskey would be shipped to a garage Moran owned at 2122 N. Clark St. When a group of Moran’s associates arrived at the garage, four Capone associates stormed in, posing as police officers conducting a raid.

They lined up six members of Moran’s gang and a seventh unaffiliated man against a wall, took out machine guns from their overcoats, and opened fire, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

But Moran himself was not present, and thus survived. And Capone was in Florida at the time, and law enforcement could never link him to the crime, the encyclopedia said. No one was ever tried in the killings.

The garage where the massacre happened, which was marked “SMC Cartage Company,” was demolished in 1967, the encyclopedia said.

A side yard for the Margaret Day Blake apartments, a Chicago Housing Authority seniors’ development, now occupies the land.

Meanwhile, the brick wall against which the victims of the massacre were lined up was put to a bizarre use after the demolition.

As RoadsideAmerica.com points out, Canadian businessman George Patey bought all the bricks at auction and reassembled them in the men’s room of his Banjo Palace nightclub in Vancouver, B.C. With the addition of a Plexiglas screen, the reassembled bricks became a urinal wall, with conveniently placed targets.

After the Banjo Palace closed in 1976, the wall was auctioned off again, one brick at a time, RoadsideAmerica.com said.

Back in Chicago, a tour and dinner show commemorate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to this day. Tommy Gun’s Garage, at 2114 S. Wabash Ave., reenacts the massacre as part of its dinner theater show at this time of year.

A show at Tommy Gun’s Garage is set for 6 p.m. Monday. Performances also ran on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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