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Al Capone and Miami

1920's postcard of Palm Island. Arrow indicates where Al Capone's house is located.
(Mario Gomes collection)

Al Capone was hooked on to Florida, and specifically to Miami by his mentor John Torrio who loved to travel. When he first visited the place it was a booming with talk of a growing state where the rich developers where building homes where the affluent and celebrities could come stay, live and enjoy the fine weather.
Capone loved it for several reasons. To get away from the Chicago gang violence and police harrassment and the weather, sporting life and also because it was a midpoint to Cuba, Bimini Islands etc... He enjoyed the horse and dog racing year round with prize fights in between. Capone loved to mingle with boxers and even had a makeshift outside gym set up at his house. The only problem was the people of Miami, especially the affluent ones were upset of Al Capone's presence. They were afraid he would bring the Chicago type violence onto Floridian shores.

James William Popham and Parker Adair Henderson Jr.

The first time Capone came to Miami he stayed in Hotels but later in 1927, he got to rent a property through car dealer Russell Garnet who also dabbled in real estate on the side. The property was at 3605 Indian Creek Drive. Mae and Al loved Miami so much they decided to purchase a home there. The only problem was the notorious reputation Capone had amassed over the years in newspapers. Most of the citizens in Miami knew of Capone and his exploits and had already formed their opinion on him. Capone knew this and had his new found friend named Parker Henderson Jr., the hotel manager at the Ponce De Leon and son of Miami's former mayor. He put the down payment on a home for Capone. When the papers would be finalized Mae Capone would put her name to it clearing Capone from any abuse or further harrassment by Miami civic leaders.  

Deed signed to Parker Henderson by then owners James William Popham and his wife Modesta Popham.

The Miami Daily News who intended on making life hard for Al Capone immediately telegrammed James Popham to let him know Capone was the owner of his previous home. They needed to know if Popham knew about this or was kept in the dark before running a story.  

Miami first Mayor John Lummus knew the house was being purchased for Capone.

Popham replied he knew nothing about the sale of the house going to Capone.

The boat dock at the Capone Miami home. From here, the loud music from Al Capone's hosted parties made their way via Biscayne bay all the way to J.C Penney's estate on Belle Isle.  

Map showing the short distance from Al Capone's home to J.C. Penney's estate.

J.C. Penney's estate where future President Hebert Hoover vacationed. It was while staying here that loud music from Al Capone's Miami home could be heard traveling on the water in Biscayne bay. Al Capone held several parties, from February until March 1929, and then again in March 1930, until the summer of 1931.
Al Capone was convinced that a snide remark during an encounter with J.C. Penney in downtown Miami had led to his imminent downfall. Upon their chance meeting, Penney had made a remark to Capone that his parties were so loud that the music could be heard right up to his estate on Belle Isle. Capone jokingly replied that he should charge Penney for the entertainment. Penney then added that now President Herbert Hoover had stayed over at his estate for relaxing vacation before his inauguration. Capone replied that Penney should bring the newly elected President over to his house also! That remark probably made it to Hoover's ears. The reality is that this wasn't the main cause of Capone's downfall. The government was already going after many gangsters for income tax evasion. The massacre in Chicago threw a spot light on Capone. Hoover was probably incensed that Capone was constantly in the newspapers and even brazenly featured on the cover of Time magazine. He wanted to stop this gangster's celebrity status and just helped the process go faster. Penney was sure to have many leaders in Miami ask for help to push the "get rid of Capone" agenda to the forefront. Now only faster with the help from his newly elected President friend. Chicago business leaders also got the word to Hoover to fix this gangster problem! It was bad for Chicago and it was bad for business!

Note the exaggerated scars put on by the Miami Daily News in order to make Capone more threatening to it's readers.
March 16,1930. Capone felt that Miami Daily News owner James M. Cox had it out for him personally.

Miami Daily News March 23, 1930.

After many letters and complaints from prominent Miami residents, Florida Governor Doyle E. Carlton headed a campaign to oust Capone from Miami .
His edict to police was to arrest him on site. This worked until Capone's lawyers proved this was harrassment.

This cartoon evokes the "At the moment" feeling of Miami citizens towards Capone.
It appeared for publication when Al Capone was being released from Terminal Island in 1939.
(Miami Daily News Cartoon by Anne Briardy Mergen)

On March 20, 1930, Sheriff M.P. Leham and Miami Beach police chief R. Woods descended on 93 Palm Avenue for a raid on the home. It was a raid for which a warrant was issued by Judge E.G. Collins' court for the arrest of Raymond "Crane Neck " Nugent . As luck would have it,  Nugent was not there  as he was probably already killed and fed to the crocodiles, but the officials don't go empty handed. They stumbled on several sacks containing contraband alcohol (Whiskey, champagne, wine) hidden in John Capone's room. They arrest Jack McGurn, John Capone, Albert Capone and Frankie Newton.
Frankie Newton, who was the home caretaker at the time became the fall guy and took the entire blame for the alcohol. He had past problems with the law as far as drinking and being disorderly. He once chased patrons out of a restaurant with a meat cleaver and once striking his wife Josephine with a shotgun. For his arrest at the Capone home he was fined $500 for liquor violations and would later contest this. He would later win his case. All others arrested that day had their charges dropped on August 1, 1930.

Arrested in the raid for Nugent was Jack McGurn picked up at "Capone Island" as he called it to police when asked where he was staying.
The police have it in for McGurn who they will arrest again later on on the 31st. McGurn used the alias James Vincent and was wearing John Capone's clothes at the time.

John Capone arrested in raid at Capone's Miami home during a raid.
Being found in his room closet, some of the alcohol is pinned on John.

Frankie Newton
Capone Miami home caretaker was also arrested in the raid.
Authorities fine him $500 and try to pin the confiscated alcohol on him.
Persistent, Newton will fight these charges and will come out victorious.

Albert Capone also arrested in same raid which netted the police contraband alcohol as evidence.

Cicero Tribune Publisher and Capone gang bondsman Louis "Diamond" Cowen.
Was a visitor to the Capone Miami home when the raid went down. He was arrested along with L.J. Brennan.
He will be killed in 1933, by a volley of shotgun slugs just as he was about to get into his car. Part of the Frank Nitti purge.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Target of the raid was police murderer and suspected participant in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre Raymond Nugent.
Nugent was riding around with Ralph Capone when he was first stopped by Miami Police for erratic driving. Unknown to police in Miami he was let go the first time with a simple warning. The second time he was arrested on a murder warrant and the Capone gang posted $10,000 bond. Nugent was staying at Al Capone's home during his time in Miami while running a gambling den on Collins Avenue. Nugent skips the court appearance and the bond is forfeited. The police get a warrant to raid Capone's Miami residence looking for Nugent. He was wanted for several murders in several States, Ray Nugent will disappear and his body will never be found. Some say he was killed and fed to the crocodiles. His wife Julia will have him officially declared dead in 1952.

Capone's harrassment began en force following the much publicized raid, on March 25, 1930, Clarence Busch, the Philadelphia realtor/ banker (not to be confused with the beer magnate) who was the previous owner and builder of 93 Palm Island wrote a letter to Florida Governor Doyle E. Carlton hoping to raise alarm about the peace threatening Capone presence on his beloved Palm Island. In it he mentions that Capone has not assimilated with the neighbourhood and that he breaks all the rules. Whether it be home improvements not to code or having noisy parties where gunshots are heard. He stresses that this will cause the island to depreciate in value and interest.
It is understandble since Busch has a self interest in the island. He and his partners founded the Biscayne Islands and he intended on protecting his investment.
Busch had the Capone home built in 1922, by contractor C.R. Donothan. In fact, he had two homes built and had the Capone one up for sale while moving to the other.

As for the gunshots, it was merely Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone shooting his rifle for target practice. The overly excited neighbors thought it was gang warfare.

After many complaints by prominent affluent Floridians, Governor Carlton acted and sent out a police edict to arrest Capone and his crew at every possible opportunity.

On April 23, 1930, a petition was filed by State's Attorney N. Vernon Hawthorne to padlock Al Capone's Miami home.
It is described as a public nuisance and a harbor for all classes of criminals and desperate characters. Capone will fight this padlocking petition and win the case on June 14, 1930.

On April 25, 1930, the courts decided that Capone is being harrassed by police. He is constantly arrested for "vagrancy or "Investigation".
(Miami Daily News)

May 8, 1930, Al Capone, Nick Circella and Albert Prignano are arrested by Detectives G.S. Wilkinson and H.G. Howard who had been waiting by the Miami Causeway for the gangsters to arrive. They were ordered by Chief of Detectives L.O. Scarboro to arrest them on site once they set foot into Miami. Capone is furious at the treatment. He demands a receipt for the confiscated money and jewelry. Capone is adamant that James M. Cox of the Miami Daily News is behind the drive to bring him down. He along with Mayor C.H. Reader, City Commissioner John Knight and Director of Public Safety S.D. McCreary. Capone will have his lawyers Vincent Gilbin and Francis James Gordon take action in trying to bring these harrassment charges to court against the four wanting him ousted from Miami. The charges against the officials will be dismissed on May 27, 1930.

On May 13, 1930, Al Capone is arrested by police chief Guy C. Reeves at a boxing match presented at the American Legion fight arena. Reeves and two other officers also arrest Albert Prignano, Nick Circella and Sylvester Agoglia.

Capone being led to jail by detectives after being arrested at the American Legion fight arena.
May 13,1930.

May 17, 1930, Al Capone's son Albert Francis "Sonny" has a birthday party at the Miami home. Over 50 boys and girls have been invited. With all the bad press Al had been having in the Miami papers, Mae an Al took special precautions in asking that the children first have special permission from their parents by having a signed letter to participate at the event. The grounds were decorated with balloons Sonny's classmates were given noisemakers.They children had the times of their lives drinking soda pop, eating cake, fried chicken and frolicking in the pool. Each was given a box of chocolates upon leaving the home.

Over fifty youngsters alongside tables with filled with fried chicken, cake and ice cream lined the lawn at 93 Palm Avenue.

The piece de resistance was the inviting gargantuan pool that was to spell fun for all the kids who swam in it!
Poor Sonny Capone had to be careful not to get completely immersed in it due to his ear condition.

May 19, 1930, Capone is once again arrested for vagrancy. Capone pays $100 cash bond and is released.

 Luzianne Cafe
(Mario Gomes Collection)

May 22,1930, Al Capone will appear in West Palm Beach to have lunch with his lawyer/ judge Vincent Giblin along with 4 other men and five women. They stop at 220 Clematis Avenue at a place called Luzianne Cafe. It specializes in Louisiana Creole cooking. Gawkers will try to get a glimpse of the gangster made famous by the local press. People outside are admiring the flashy sedan. Police go in but leave him be finding no guns and because he was just passing through with his lawyer. He will pay the lunch bill amounting to $35.10, tipping his waitress generously and he and his party are on their way.

Inside Luzianne Cafe
(Mario Gomes Collection)

May 28, 1930, Al Capone hosted a proper party for over 50 prominent people in Miami and served them spaghetti, steak and ginger ale. Upon entering the guests exchanged their invitations for an American flag lapel pins. The guests were delighted by a musical ensemble with operatic arias. A past party he hosted in 1929, turned out to be very troublesome for him in the newspapers. There was talk that some champagne was served which at the time was illegal. The authorities had tried to make a big thing out of it  even as far as trying padlock Capone's home for these violations.  During this party Capone pledged a donation to the Miami Tourist board. This gift created an outrage  with the public which in turn forced some directors of the board to quit. The Capone donation was withdrawn and returned.

The Miami Community chest sends back Capone his 1929 donation of $1,000.
Members on the board refuse to have anything to do with a well known gangster.

Nicky Dean

Nicolo Dean Circella when he was arrested with Al in Miami while attending a prize fight.

Nick Dean, Nicolo Dean, Nicholas Carew, Nick Circulee. His early police record is as follows;
No. 65937-- Nick Circella. Dec. 13, 1915. Granted liberty from prison on probation after one year on a plea of guilty to robbery before Judge Turney.
No. 68544-- Sept. 14, 1916, under name of Nick Circella, sent to Pontiac reform school (No. 519) on his plea to assault to murder, two indictments. The charges of assault to rob and robbery were stricken off and he was almost immediately paroled. He was rearrested and returned for violation of parole and was granted another parole Sept. 1, 1921. He was discharged from the reform school April 19, 1923 and Judge Pam struck off a charge of larceny against him. No. 76868 -- As Nick Circella before the grand jury at the May term, 1919, on three charges of larceny, but no bill was returned.
On Jan, 24, 1920. he was not convicted on larceny charges. Trial before Judge Crowe.
On March 9, 1920. not convicted on burglary charges. Trial before Judge Pam.
On April 23, 1920. not convicted on larceny charges. Trial before Judge Pam.
As Nick Circella, indicted by the 1922 grand jury for robbery. The case was not prosecuted and after many postponements Judge Hopkins nolle prossed the charges Sept. 29. 1922.

Often mistaken as James Braddock next to Al, this was in fact fellow gangster Nick Circella holding the medicine ball.
Photo taken mid January 1928, at Miami Beach Roney Plaza Casino just before his January 21st meeting with Mayor J. Newton Lummus Jr. at City Hall. The meeting was encouraged by Miami civic leaders to get Capone to leave Miami. He agreed but what they didn't know was he was coming back to stay by having a home secretly purchased through a middle man under his wife's name. Lummus was playing both sides because he helped Capone get the home (signed deed) while trying to placate the concerned citizens of Miami at the same time.

(Info on Circella identification courtesy of Chicago gangland expert and author John J. Binder)

Al Capone enjoying exercise and boxing practice at the Miami Beach Roney Plaza Casino January 1928.
A big boxing fan, Capone loved to watch boxers train there. When this photo was taken, Capone and Nick Circella went to see Gene Tunney train.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

A telephoto shot of Capone playing tennis in Florida circa 1930.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

As Nick Circella, he was turned over to U. S. authorities. April 8, 1924, on charges of robbing the mails, by Lieutenant Ryan and squad of the detective bureau.
When arrested in Miami he gave his occupation as a fight manager but when he was questioned in Cuba by authorities there he gave his name as Nicholas Carew and his occupation as a salesman. Circella would later be sentenced (1942) for his part in the famous movie extortion case which tried to extort 1 million from movie producers.
He would be handed 8 years and a $10,000 fine. (He served 6). On April 21,1955, after a two year court battle to stave off deportation to Italy, Nick Dean as he preferred to be called, finally voluntarily sets sail to Argentina.


Albert J. Prignano arrested with Circella and Capone while attending prize fight in Miami.

State Representative and Democratic leader of the Twentieth ward, Albert Prignano seen here holding a newspaper while attending a football game with Al Capone in 1931. Prignano will be shot and killed on December 30,1935.

Long time Capone friend Sylvester Agoglia was also attending same prize fight as Capone, Prignano and Circella but was not arrested.
Agoglia will also join Capone on his Cuban jaunt. Agoglia was an old Capone friend who was in the famous Adonis Club massacre. SEE ADONIS

Jack McGurn as James Vincent in Miami Beach.

Jack McGurn and his half brother Anthony arrested March 31,1930, on a Miami golf course.
This is the second time McGurn is arrested in Miami. Louise Rolfe was with him, but was not wanted by police.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Jack McGurn is arrested under the alias James Vincent. McGurn was arrested a couple of times in Miami.
When asked by police where he was staying he replied "Al Island!" He claimed he was in town getting the Capone Miami home ready for Big Al's arrival from the Philadelphia Penitentiary. Miami and the authorities are fed up of seeing McGurn playing golf and frolicking around the beaches of Miami with Louise Rolfe and his little brother Anthony. Police arrest him up wherever they can. Eventually he will be unceremoniously escorted back to Chicago to answer questions about  the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Even Capone's once said allies turned on him. His Doctor Kenneth Phillips once sued him him for $2500. It was paid and not legal action was taken. The good doctor would later lie under oath for Capone. His lawyer Vincent Giblin, who defended his client and prevented the government from seizing his property on many occaisions once had it in for Capone. Giblin had served Capone with an order to pay $50,000 in lawyer fees from March 1930 - June 1931. On June 6, 1931, Giblin had the Sheriff's deputies lead the movers into the home and they proceeded to take items from the home. Capone's caretaker named Frankie Newton was on hand to answer the door and did not hesitate to let them in when he saw the badges. He had been arrested in the March 1930 raid and knew better than to obstruct justice. He asked what was this about and they told him they would pick the house clean of every piece of furniture. Newton frantically exclaimed that Al wasn't home and didn't comprhend what was going on. Newton asked if they were going to remove his bed too? Newton rushed to the phone and tries to call Al. His henchmen answer the phone and Newton forcefully explains to the person on the other line that they need to get Al  pronto because the police are here with movers and they plan on seizing Al's property at that very moment! Somebody in Al's party will get in touch to put a hold on the seizure.

On June 8, 1931, Mae Capone has lawyer Frank Clark Jr. put a temporary hold on the seizure. On June 17, 1931, a judge overrules Giblin's motion to dissolve Mae Capone's injunction stopping the seizure.
June 23, 1931, Giblin has the judge dismiss the lawsuit against Capone. Things beween Capone and Giblin are settled. The backstabbing ain't over yet. Fritz Gordon, Al's other Miami lawyer once photographed with Al in Cuba was now taking the stand against his pal for the government in Capone's upcoming tax trial.
The government had gotten his brother on the tax angle and through the evidence found for Ralph's trial, Al was now ripe for the picking. Capone was trapped.
SEE Al Capone's Tax trial and Downfall

Movers from John E. Withers Transfer and Storage Co. wait to seize Capone's furniture at 93 Palm Avenue June 7, 1931.
(The Miami Daily News)

On October 24, 1931, right after Capone's sentencing a man approaches Capone with an lien order against his Miami home for monies owed the to the government. The amount is $51,489.08 of the total sum of $215,000 in unpaid back taxes. Capone goes ballistic at the man serving him these papers and is restrained. Two liens in total, one against Al Capone and the other against his wife demanding payment.

Just before being incarcerated Capone had purchased through his lawyer a 35 acre parcel of land in another part of Florida wedged between Palm Beach and Boca Raton. This was in order to build another home in case he was forced to leave his Miami home. When he was sent away the land was sold off and was probably not feasable as a road had to be built and paid by the owner of that said land.

A humorous 1934 realtor's ad trying to sell lots near the Capone residence.

September 2, 1935, Frankie Newton, longtime Capone Miami home caretaker is killed as his car is washed away in a hurricane.

Many years will pass and the government will keep at it in trying to foreclose on the infamous home in order to get it's monies owed. The government planned to auction it off  to the public at noon on November 9, 1936. Two days before the planned auction the house was saved by Ralph Capone the payment.
On January 25, 1937, the government had it's greedy hand out again with a new tax lien against the home asking for $17,194 in total. That and threats of selling the home sent Mae Capone again scurrying to find the money while Al was still imprisoned. On September 10, 1937, the second payment was made by Ralph Capone thus saving the home once more.

A deserted Palm Island. Photo of the pool area taken taken just outside the fence by a reporter on August 24,1939. The house would once again be bustling with activity once Al Capone was released from prison and his medical stint at the Baltimore hospital.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Florida, February 17, 1941. A dapper Capone listening in amusement to the charges read by his last attorney Abraham Teitelbaum.
Capone makes an appearance accompanied with brother Ralph and his lawyer for a closed session with government lawyers. They question his ability to pay back $201,347 still owed to the government.

A smiling Capone making his way through the crowd.
Florida, February 17, 1941

On July 27,1942, Abraham Teitelbaum, a Capone lawyer, will settle some of Capone's tax burden with a payment of $30,000.
Al will live a mostly a protected and secluded life on 93 Palm Avenue. On occaision, he will make a trip to the barbershop for his haircut or to purchase his favorite Sen Sen gum. He will even go out to dinner from time to time. When healthy enough, he will make a couple of trips to New Jersey, Chicago and Wisconsin.

After 1945, he mainly stays at 93 Palm island where he will pass away on January 25, 1947.

 Mae will finally get peace on December 23, 1952, when she pays off the remaining taxes owed on the home. Because of the penalties and interest Mae had to pay double the amount that Capone owed for back taxes for the years 1926-29. Mae made the decision to just give up on the beloved house that was once her and Al's dream home.
 She loved that home because it was "Al's and her" first real home and a place to get away from living with Mafalda and Theresa. She put up with a lot living with Al's family back in Chicago at 7244 South Prairie. But now taxes, repairs and general upkeep on a home this size was more than daunting for her alone. Perhaps it was just as well as Mae never felt the same in that house after Al had passed away there in 1947. The reminders and the incessant gawkers / sightseers passing by made it unenjoyable for her to live there. The hourly sightseeing boat tours would pass by the back of the home giving a gangster history lesson to tourists who could see into the backyard from a distance. This is still done to this day.

Sightseeing boat tour with blaring speakerphone at the back of Al Capone's home. I took this photo from inside the Capone pool cabana in 2012. Fun at first, but I could quickly see how getting these boats to appear several times a day, every day, would just annoy the most patient person in the world.

Mae finally sold the Miami home in February of 1952, to Thomas Warren Miller, which gave her slightly a little more than $64,000 to pay off the taxes. Miller, a realtor, stated at the time that he practically stole it from her at that price.

For more on the Miami home SEE 93 Palm

 This magazine has been finally found and was donated to by the generosity of Casey Nanz of Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
A big thank-you as the research in it helps with telling the complete Capone story.