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 The Lexington Hotel

"Capone lives a funny life -- but he can have it! There he is penned in that hotel, never gets to go anywhere and sees the same people all the time. He seems to thrive on it, though. Not for mine, it's too much like being in jail!"
- Chicago Alderman William Pacelli -1929

Al Capone and his crew move into the Lexington Hotel on July 30, 1928.

The insignia on the front facade of the Lexington Hotel.


Al Capone's playpen, office, command center," The Room of Doom". These are the words used in describing the inner sanctum of Al Capone, Chicago's most powerful man of the Twenties. The Lexington Hotel was built in 1892 as a residential Hotel and designed by Clinton Warren. (Also the Architect for Chicago's Congress Hotel). The 10 story Lexington Hotel was made of brick and Terra Cotta and once featured President Benjamin Harrison speaking from it's balcony. It's most notable resident was none other than Alphonse "Scarface" Capone. He occupied the Lexington from 1928-1932. Mr. Capone and his large entourage occpied the second, then the fourth and fifth floor, maintaining bodyguards in surrounding rooms next to, above and below his personal suite. He also had well armed torpedoes in the lobby pretending to read newspapers when in fact these men were constantly casing the lobby for any threat against "Snorky". (Capone's preferred nickname meaning snappy dresser).





The Lexington Hotel 2135 South Michigan ave and Cermak rd.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)



In the lobby made up stories of Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo sitting in a chair with a fully loaded Thompson submachine gun on his lap. Louie "little New York" Campagna another one of Capone's favorite bodyguards would sleep on a cot beside Al's suite door at night with two automatics at the ready to protect "the Big One".
While Al had all this protection outside and inside his suite, he had secret stairwells to the upper room where his mistress was living.
He would go to her through a stairwell located behind the medicine cabinet. He also had a stairwell in his suite permitting him to exit the Lexington in case of emergency via the underground tunnels which were first used in Chicago to shuttle coal and then bootleg booze. Many underground workers recall finding gold coins and jewelery studded stickpins directly below The Lexington. In the Entrance to Capone's suite was a crest with the initials A.C. that had been laid in the oak parquet. Inside Capone's suite it had ornately plastered walls of gold and reddish pink colors. An ancient oriental rug covered the floor. In the center of the room was a huge chandelier of smoked glass that shed an amber soft light. He also had a fake fireplace with fake coals lit up by light bulbs and a built in radio set installed over the mantle piece. On the wall next to his office desk was portraits of President George Washington and Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson.  Also on the wall were heads of deer and elk. At the left of the front entrance was Al Capone's bathroom* with it's ornately designed wall tiling of green tiles with tan and purple trim. The floor tiles were also of light green color. In the bathroom stood a large deep sunkened lavender bathtub with gold plated fixtures.




Al Capone's room identification. The Lexington layout had a lobby, mezzanine then 1st, 2nd floor etc..... Al Capone and his gang first moved in 1928 into the second floor with his office at room 230.
When available space was freed up in mid 1929, renovations took place on the 4th floor and Capone and his gang moved up with Capone making his office in room 430.
Right above room 430 was room 530 (Red arrow) where Capone had his private suite with special bathroom. In this suite he would entertain special guests and have private conversations.
(Research Mario Gomes)



Was a lot of this fabricated or enhanced versions of what reporters heard or seen? As with everything related with information, some must be taken in and some must be left behind. Here is a newly uncovered first hand description of the various rooms used by Al Capone, his family and gang members in the Lexington.
After leaving the ****Metropole Hotel, Capone and his outfit moved into the entire second floor of the Lexington Hotel. He wanted a a higher level but no room was available at the time, so they conducted business on the second floor with Capone's office being in room 230. In 1929, Capone and his Outfit moved up to the entire 4th floor with Capone conducting business out of suite 430.
On the fifth floor, he had a luxurious suite remodeled in suite 530, which was situated right above his office.
 An unbiased first hand account during that time gives us a lay of the land once entering the Lexington during Capone's reign there. Here for the first time is the scoop on the layout of Al Capone's lair.



Front Facade during Al Capone's stay there. Risky business to be taking photos of the entrance during that time.




The Lobby of The Lexington Hotel. The red arrow points to the open mezzanine.


Contrary to what most believe, the Lexington Hotel during Capone's reign was already past it's prime as compared to it's inauguration back in 1892. It was called by most as an old gay ninties hostelry in 1930. As we enter we see that the lobby is clean but depressing looking. (Somber). The furniture, floors and walls are shabby with years of use. Long gone were the days of millionaires reuniting in what was then the in place to gather and be seen. A long old fashion counter stretches from one end of the lobby to the other. Behind it is a room clerk and a cashier. Against the east wall is a cigar stand, to the south is a partition made of wood and glass serving as a rear wall for the shops that lined the front of Twenty second street. There is always several men lounging around. To the immediate left of the lobby is an antiquated elevator. The cage of the elevator has two way doors. This elevator rides jerkily from years of use as it rises to the sceond floor. As the elevator reaches Capone's floor the elevator stops and the back door opens. The people in it right about face and exit into the long narrow hall (west). We walk down the hall as we come to the east corner. There is room 230 occupied by Al Capone and his gang. There is an old fashion twist bell that once activated gives a shrill vibration.
The door opens about three inches and the person inside is scrutinizing the vistors. Once allowed in we find ourselves in a dimly lighted vestibule about 8 feet square with four doors leading out of it. The door on the left is opened to reveal a bathroom, but the three other doors are closed.

Hallway to Al's offices and suite at the Lexington Hotel.
(Special thanks to Mr. Bill Helmer)


The middle door is the one pointed out. "In there" our host directs us. As the door opens, glaring light fills the vestibule. You can see the southwest rounded bay windows that look right above the four corners of the street. (South Michigan and 22nd street). In front of the windows stands Capone's massive walnut desk. Another desk stands along the south wall of the room. Against the north wall of the room stands a beautifully carved Chinese cabinet with an immense German cuckoo clock hanging above the cabinet. A third desk is pushed against the west wall. There is a radio console between the fireplace and the door we had entered. The only pictures on the wall are prints of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
On the floor is a threadbare carpet. Surrounding it is a few arm chairs and an electric adding machine in the corner. Against the north wall up above near the picture moulding was a rolled up projection screen. Under a desk at the south wall his a projector. Capone would screen movies before they came out in the theaters because Capone was too busy to head out to the movies.

Once Capone and his crew move up to the 4th floor in 1929, the change to his surroundings is substantial. Chinese rugs and hand carved furniture replace the dingy decor that was found in his original office in room 230. The stucco decorated walls were tinted in many different shades of colors as to remind Capone he was in Florida. Pink, green and red.  
By November of 1931, and after a series of raids, the Lexington suite was now deserted. Even Capone's cook and dishwasher were taken away. During his trial Judge Wilkerson had declared this suite and the surrounding suites as an outlaw camp.



An example of a corner tower suite in the Lexington. Al Capone's living quarters and office was situtated in one like this.
Photo courtesy of Joe Walters

Lexington circa 1915
Photo courtesy of Joe Walters




      
1920's Lexington Hotel matchbook made by the Diamond Match Co. New York.
 (Mario Gomes collection)




This exceptional page is made possible by the kindness of Mr. Joe Walters and Mr. Bill Helmer.
Their beautiful and interesting photos give us the inside view of the Lexington hotel that was once inhabited by Al Capone and his henchmen.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



The lobby of The Lexington Hotel. Some men are playing a golf/pool type of game.
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)




View of Lexington basement.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



Lexington main dining room
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



View of basement from destroyed main floor (Lobby).
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



Original 1915 shot of the Lexington Hotel.
 (Mario Gomes collection)




Lexington Oriental  room.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



Close up of capital on a column in the hallway of the hotel
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   


Bedroom  two room suite.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   




The once luxurious Grand ballroom
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   




The Grand Ballroom. Note the once balcony over the entrance.
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)




Banquet Room
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



Wall of ballroom on 2nd floor.Site where Geraldo fired Tommy gun in 1986 documentary on Capone's vault.
Also supposed area where Capone's henchmen used as a gym.  
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Ladies waiting room and balcony.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Close up of Terra Cotta  on The Lexington Hotel.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   







Inside the Lexington.  Even in it's run down state, each room was an architectural treat for the eyes.
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)







Ladies foyer
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   








Close up of ornate architecture on ballroom column.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   








Al Capone's office
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   










Al Capone's fireplace
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   









Construction workers or Capone collectors?
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)








Lexington Hotel  stairway
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   








The Lexington Green parlor
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Hidden exit used by Capone located on 2nd floor by ballroom.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   








Lexington Cafe






Another view of grand ballroom.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Lexington's Red Parlor






Hallway and rooms on 8th floor.These rooms were low rate rooms.Hallway and rooms were more narrow than the rooms and hallways of the lower floors.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   








Front  desk of the hotel situated in the lobby of course.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Lexington Lobby





Kitchen area from restaurant in the 1950's called Batt's lounge.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   





view of floor above ballrooms.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   





Photo looking up a stairwell from 1st floor.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   





Two room suite parlor




Balcony and doorway in the grand ballroom.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Doorways on 2nd floor.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






View of arches located on North East corner of hotel.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   





Courtyard of the lexington hotel.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   





Close up of ornate architecture on the Lexington.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Another splendid view of ornate design.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Preparing for destruction of the hotel.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   






Lexington advertising still figured on the brick walls of the hotel.
Good-bye old friend.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters   



First Posted  June 2005