Friday, February 15, 2013

Homeowners association seeks Scarface Al Capone's ouster

Capone in 1931
Most everything that can be written about gangster “Scarface” Al Capone (1899-1947) probably has been published. But an interesting footnote to his history concerns the outrage of the Palm and Hibiscus Islands Improvement Association, Inc. about his taking up residence on Miami’s exclusive Palm Island. 

Late 1927 Capone left Los Angeles under orders from local law enforcement and surfaced in Miami where he checked in at the local police station.  He told the growing throng of reporters he was in town to buy a house because “Miami’s climate is more healthful than Chicago’s and warmer than California – that’s why I’m here.”

He bought a house on Palm Island through Miami middle man Parker Henderson, Jr. Henderson, son of a former Miami mayor, expedited the purchase through a real estate company owned by Mayor J.N. Lummus. The association’s directors* drew up a proposal on April 11, 1928 and presented it to the Miami City Council in hopes of getting official help to oust Capone and to place blame on the mayor for the real estate transaction. Excerpts follow:

Whereas … Capone constitutes a menace to the welfare, peace and contentment of all the residents and owners … and is a serious detriment to the value of the property … whereas, we call upon the council to take such drastic steps … to abate this situation. 

“I don’t think Capone is half as bad as some people picture him,” said Mayor Lummis. Though floored by his involvement, the association directors did not call for his resignation. The council sided with the directors and asked the police to watch the house and all Capone’s activities.

Capone reportedly paid $40,000 for the waterfront house in 1928. He said he was selling it in 1931 for $100,000 but did not. He was convicted for tax evasion and spent nearly a decade in Alcatraz. He died on Palm Island in 1947. And the Palm and Hibiscus Islands Improvement Association, Inc. survived and their property values probably shot skyward.

The waterfront house, which has had a few owners over the years, sits on a football-field-sized lot and was recently placed on the market for $9.95 million. Photos from the New York Daily News (July 19, 2012): Parties from Russia, Brazil and France have expressed interest in the residence as well as a pro basketball player. It is, indeed, beautiful.

*Directors: Dan Hardie, John B. Orr, Hamilton Hopkins, Charles Mack, Fred Vanderpool,
Edward Robertson, D.A. Stearns
Miami News
, Jan. 10, 1928 Miami News, June 26, 1928 New York Daily News, July 19, 2012
Tags: Al Capone in Miami, Scarface in Miami, film research, Palm Island Miami,  historical researcher

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