Al Capone – also known as one of Chicago’s most notorious gangster chiefs – had a vast number of retreats and vacation spots where he could unplug from his extremely busy life of murder and mayhem and enjoy a little peaceful R & R. These include St. Paul MN, Hot Springs AR, as well as some lesser known hideouts where he could maintain his anonymity such as French Lick IN, Brookfield WI, Olean NY, Lansing MI, Dubuque IA, and Johnson City, TN. But one of Scarface Al’s all-time favorite stomping grounds were much closer to his home, in Kankakee, since Kankakee Illinois hospital was well known to Chicagoans looking for a good time. Kankakee County’s towns had the reputation in the 1920’s and 30’s as being wide open fun spots where anything went.
The Kankakee County motto was “Just an hour from Chicago, but a world apart.” According to Jorie Walters, a researcher at Kankakee County’s Museum, there is not much written documentation of Al Capone’s influence in the area, but everyone knows the real truth. Walters’ information was gathered from books, history columns in the Kankakee Daily Journal Newspaper, oral histories, and from old museum files. She says that some of the local dives which were owned or frequented by Scarface Al include Bradley Illinois’ Hawaii Motel; a safe house in L’Erable on the Iroquois River which was extremely well fortified against unexpected and unwanted visitors; Nel Clark’s, a brothel in Kankakee which is now called the City Tavern; The Sahara Restaurant on Kankakee’s Fifth Avenue; and the Radeke Brewery, also in Kankakee, which was secretly owned by Al Capone in the 1920’s and 30’s. Kankakee was also the hometown of Fred Burke’s moll. Burke was Capone’s leading enforcer who planned and executed the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929 against Bugs Moran’s gang.
Another of Scarface Al’s favorite hangouts was the Miami Gardens near Peotone Illinois hospital, which was both a bar and brothel in Prohibition Days and is called Edwin’s bar now. Scarface Al had the reputation of being the foremost sampler of the wares he purveyed in his brothels. The Miami Gardens had high, ornate ceilings made of tin, and there was a secret garage with room for twenty automobiles in the basement of the building which is scarred with bullet holes in its walls. It is rumored that gangland executions were carried out in this hidden garage. Another favored hangout was Club 54 Restaurant near the Manteno Illinois hospital (just south of Manteno where Governor’s Highway meets 500E). This restaurant was actually a brothel.