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The Four Deuces
 (2222 South Wabash)
The 2200 Wabash block was in the heart of Chicago's South side Levee. Gamblers and roughnecks would drink, gamble and whore away their hard earned wages for moments of fleeting pleasure. Many establishments could be found in this immediate area, but none would become as infamous as the Four Deuces.

2220 - 2226 South Wabash. It was demolished in 1963.

Chicago Tribune June 1904.

The Four Deuces.

Chicago's Southside 1925. In it, we can see the Lexington, Four Deuces, Metropole and Colosimo's.
The Four Deuces is circled in white.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

John Torrio and Al Capone made it part of history. Few realize the history that had been there before them and remained there after their infamous run.

 Four Deuces as it is today. It was brought to my attention by Randall Wright, a  savvy Southside historian, that Wabash was widened over the years, and that some of the addresses may have shifted in the process. So this is the general area of where the Four Deuces once stood.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

1906 before the street was widened. Buildings to the right of this shot were all torn down.
Photo is incorrectly labeled at the left and it should be read as Northern 22nd not Southern.
 ( Info courtesy of Bryan Lloyd, Randall Wright and correction to caption made by Patricia Garza)

The addresses shifted over time due to the buildings that where knocked down in 1927.
 ( Info courtesy of Bryan Lloyd and Randall Wright)
Photos taken from my Chicago Daily Newspaper collection.

Let's take a look back;

Built right after the great Chicago fire, circa 1880, the 2200 block of buildings were sized at 87 x 159 feet.
The 2222 Wabash four story building was home to four families living in separate quarters.

Some of these families either moved out or had their dwellings foreclosed which would explain the several auctions that were offered as early as 1883.
 Contents of the one floor of the place was being put at auction by the Elison,Flersheim company. Bedding, laundry, kitchen, crockery and glass were all priced to go. Then in 1891, the same fate had happened to another family there.

1883 advertisment for furniture auction being held at 2222 South Wabash

 1891 auction being held at 2222 South Wabash.

In 1901, the building was then owned by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. They had acquired it in an foreclosure auction for $48,000 with other adjoining properties.

 Not long into 1901, Soloman Friedman, a Russian/Pole born in England, becomes proprietor of the 2222 Wabash. He runs a saloon there.

The New Levee as the Wabash block was referred to, began sprouting up saloons en masse.  In 1903, Mayor Harrison sent out notice to the owners of Wabash saloons, that unless they respected the midnight closing law, they would be shut down for good and have their liquor licenses revoked. Soloman Friedman was one of them.
 Many others that same year on Wabash, faced indictments for that closing law and for selling policy tickets. Families and law abiding citizens began to move out of the Wabash area, which was now becoming seedier by the day.  

Mask from the facade at 2222 Wabash, now in the garden at the Brooklyn museum.

Prostitution,gambling and drinking were the main sports to be found there. Sol Van Praag, a first ward politician who also dabbles in gambling, has himself a cigar store at 2226 South Wabash. Politicians such as Van Praag and Hinky Dink Michael Kenna, have cigar stores and saloons which usually serve as fronts for other nefarious adventures.
One in which visiting gents can meet up at the establishment to shoot the bull, drink, and then go secretly in back to leave their money at a friendly and sometimes not so friendly game of craps or cards.

Van Praag's cigar store address was next door to the Four Deuces.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Van Praag's place is often raided. 17 people are arrested there in 1917 for playing craps.(dice).

Robberies, holdups and killings are becoming frequent in and around the 2200 block.
Since July 16 ,1919 ,Van Praag has rented out one of his premises to Marty Guilfoyle, who runs the cigar store at 2220 with gambling in back.

Martin Guilfoyle

In September of 1919, Guilfoyle shoots and kills a hardcore hardcase by the name of Peter Gentleman. Gentleman is a slugger, robber, pickpocket and heavy drinker. He walks in the cigar store and threatens Guilfoyle with a gun and slaps him around. This all happens as Guilfoyle is playing cards with friends. Guilfoyle runs out with the others and waits till Gentlman's tirade subsides. He re-enters his establishment and resumes his card game. Gentleman comes back and throws a brick breaking a cigar case. This time Guilfoyle was prepared and whipped out an automatic and shot Gentleman who died later at hospital.
Gentleman who grew up with Guilfoyle denies being shot by Guilfoyle. Guilfoyle has no clue why Gentleman did this and stated when asking him "Why do you want to kill me?" Gentleman replied "Because I don't like you."  

Peter Gentleman

End of 1919 to beginning of 1920,John Torrio (See Johnny Torrio) takes over the whole building of 2222 South Wabash.

An 1922 investigation by newspapermen,whom have entered the place incognito, show that there are two entrances at the Four Deuces. One is through the saloon on the first floor and the other is through a doorway leading into a corridor just south of the saloon entrance. If entering through the saloon one goes through the barroom to the rear behind a partition. Once behind the partition, a left turn shows a stairway leading to the second floor. It is here that the girls are found in various rooms. A reported 30 girls are in Torrio's employ at the time. The surroundings are very crude. Although brightly lit, no furniture or wall embellishments are to be found. Crudely made benches line the walls where men wait their turn for fleshly pleasures. During the investigation, 43 young men were present. Some sitting on benches and the remaining standing. Many girls were busy in the rooms while three untaken girls were enticing the waiting men. An obese madame in a rocking chair kept telling the men to "Come on boys; pick a girl." Al Capone makes his way to Chicago early to mid late 1920 to early. He is sent to work for John Torrio via New York's Frank Uale (Yale). Capone is on the lam from New York for murder.

The Four Deuces building
There were two entrances to the Four Deuces. One was via the main door (1) and the other was through the saloon (2).
From the saloon, you had to go to the back behind a partition. Slightly to the left, was a small stairway that adjoined the main entrance and went right up to the rooms where women were waiting to ply their trade.
(3) Is where Al Capone had his fake furniture store at 2224 Wabash.
(Research Mario Gomes)

Here is a 1933 shot with the Four Deuces building (left) cut off which creates confusion as to where the Four Deuces stood. The arrow to the left shows where the Four Deuces saloon entrance was. The arrow to the right shows addresses going down 2222 - 2220 - 2218 etc.
2220 Wabash was once the scene of a murder. In 1919, it  was then a cigar store owned by Martin Guilfoyle. Gambling frequently had taken place in the back store and a man by the name of Pete Gentleman was shot and killed by Guilfoyle after Gentleman threw a brick through the window in revenge for a previous gambling loss.

So how do we know this address configuration is correct? On the awning we have 2222 listed for the store front (then called entresols) of the 2222 building. This was to the right of the main entrance at 2222 Wabash. Next was 2220, which is an apartment building with about 20 + flats.  Flat A, B, C etc...
(Mario Gomes Collection)

As we zoom into the building next to the stone arched one, we can read a partial sign that says' K Smith' in the window. We can deduce that it is an electrician or electrical company. This photo was taken in 1933. Luckily, I have a 1931 Chicago Telephone Directory.
I checked under 'SMITH' and man, there we lots of them! Went down the list one by one and BINGO!

FK electric construction 2218 South Wabash.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Copy of Al Capone's 1925 deposition for the John Torrio shooting shows the fake furniture store being at the adjacent 2224 building.
He also mentions being in business with Sol Van Praag who had a cigar store at 2226 Wabash.

Van Praag was playing tic tac toe with Wabash. He was doing business (Cigar store with gambling in back) at 2222 before Torrio showed up in 1921.  Then Van Praag took his business to 2226 while Torrio and Capone took 2222. Van Praag leased out 2224 to Capone for his mock furniture store. Van Praag lived at 2220 Wabash. (The stone arch building).

Torrio sets him up as bouncer, capper / roper. The latter means he stood outside the Four Deuces calling out for men to step inside as there was some nice girls inside.
Capone quickly elevates to manager and part owner in less than 2 years.
He opens an office next door as the profits from the joint quickly mutiply. His decoy is a used furniture store under the name of Al Brown.
Another investigation that was reported by crime fighter Virgil Peterson, shows that the premises have since changed from it's first inception and while it still sports the saloon on the main first floor, but now the second and third floor gives way to a newly furnished gambling establishment. Prostitution has now moved up to the top fourth floor. A steel barred gate separates the office and the saloon.

old dice with logo "Four Deuces"
(Mario Gomes collection)

There is also talk of a trap door and basement where rival gangsters and non payers are treated to death or near death experiences. One can only wonder.

Al Capone becomes boss of the place while Torrio takes a European trip. Things look up until  about 1923-24 when they have to close up shop due to a newly elected mayor William E. Dever, one who will have no part of this type of establishment. They are raided often and the higher ups cannot be bought as was the case with the past corrupt Mayor William Thompson.
The Torrio /Capone clan find a solution. They move their operations into gangster friendly Cicero. There they will run their operations in the Hawthorne Hotel and at other various roadhouses. While this transition is made, they still maintained an office at 2146 South Michigan Avenue.

2222 Wabash Saloon Circa 1930 now a restaurant.
(X - Marks the Spot and the Wickersham report)

In later years, the once infamous Four Deuces becomes a simple apartment building. It only occaisonally makes the news.

On April 9th,1932, it is reported that a 73 year old woman at 2222 South Wabash apartments decides to end her life in kerosene filled bathtub that is self ignited.

Bricks from the site of the Four Deuces.
(Mario Gomes collection with special thanks to Joe Walters and Bryan Lloyd)

In July of 1946, a main floor occupant is fined for rat infestations due to the unclean lane at the back of 2222 Wabash.

On January 3,1952, the building is violating the city's smoke ordinance as thick black smoke billows out of it's chimney. The once infamous address will not live much longer, as age and neglect to the buildings on the block become increasingly evident.

On March 22,1958, Bertha Stamps was robbed of $60 in front of her apartment building at 2222 South Wabash.

Four Deuces bricks remanants and photo of 2222 circa 1950's
(Special thanks to Joe Walters and Bryan Lloyd)
(Mario Gomes collection)

Date of the building's demise has been surmised by a visit of a New York architectural collector by the name of Ivan Karp. In a 1967 article, Mr. Karp mentioned that he had removed a architectural mask from the front of 2222 South Wabash when he happened to be passing through Chicago. This was at the time of 2222 S. Wabash's destruction. He brought the mask to New York with him.


The demolition of the 2220-2222 building where the Four Deuces once stood began on October 11,1963. The building was total rubble a year later.

Remenants of the Four Deuces
The following are back views near elevated train tracks (EL).

Four Deuces view from the back.
 (Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

Another angle.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

Possible concrete remains of the Four Deuces.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

Another angle.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Joe Walters)

My special thanks to Chicago Levee experts Randall Wright, Bryan Lloyd, Chicago researcher Margaret Regan, and collector Joe Walters for all of their help and expertise in making this page possible!

First Posted  May 2009