Friday, May 16, 2008

More Notorious Uptown

Since Uptown's about to be the home to gangsters again this weekend (the kind in spats, that is), we thought it was time to revisit our mob history.

Thanks to Richard Lindberg's Return to the Scene of the Crime, and its sequel, Return Again to the Scene of the Crime, for telling the stories about infamous places all over Chicago, and allowing us to find out who walked these streets and inhabited these buildings before we did.

Machine Guns on Agatite: Verne Miller was a former lawman turned killer who freelanced, working occasionally for the Capone bootleggers and "Machine Gun" Kelly.

In June 1933, he went on the run after four FBI agents were killed when he attempted to spring a bank robber from custody in Kansas City. (He also managed to kill the bank robber he was attempting to free.)

Miller (now at the top of the FBI's Most Wanted List) and his girlfriend holed up in Apartment 211 at the prestigious and luxurious Sherone Apartment Hotel at 4423 North Sheridan (at Agatite) when an informant tipped the Feds off that he was in town.

So they set up a sting ... seven agents were waiting in the lobby and around the building. The informant would drop his keys as a signal.

November 1, 1933, 9:00 p.m.: Miller appeared in the lobby. Keys clattered to the floor. Miller was expecting the trap and ran for it. He went out the side door onto Galt (now Agatite) while the FBI shot at him. "When an FBI agent let loose with his machine gun, it marked the first time that a representative from law enforcement used the deadly weapon in the streets of Chicago."

Miller's girlfriend was waiting outside for him in an idling car. The shootout continued as they sped east on Agatite, then hopscotched around on Clarendon, Montrose, Vista Terrace (now Dayton), and finally back to Montrose, where their car blew a tire. They escaped by the time the FBI caught up with them.

(Didn't do ol' Verne much good. He was killed by mobsters just four weeks later. He was only 37.)

Places near Uptown that we learned surprising stuff about:

  • The (infamous) Hotel Chateau, 3838 N Broadway, was home to sisters Pat Cherrington and Opal Long, "molls" to mobsters Red Hamilton and Dillinger gang member Russell Clark. Dillinger and his gang often hung out there, and when Red Hamilton was killed, Dillinger sent Ms. Cherrington an envelope full of cash there.
  • The Wigwam, the triangular building at 3751 N. Broadway, used to be the Marigold Hotel, which housed (briefly) the headquarters of the O'Bannion-Moran-Drucci gang. Street level (probably where the flower shop is now) held the Club Southern nightclub, a frequent hangout for the Dillinger gang and their girlfriends.


  1. Wow, all the once glamourous and luxurious hotels are now dumps. Really a same.

  2. I love reading about the neighborhood history. Please post more about it.

  3. Wow, all the once glamourous and luxurious hotels are now dumps.

    To be fair, though, a lot of places that were absolute crap when I moved to Truman Square nearly 10 years ago have had millions of dollars invested in restoring them and are gorgeous (or on the way) now: Borders/Phoenix Building (was dilapidated Goldblatts), the Jimmy Gouskos bldg right across from the Aragon (used to have Prologue school and liquor store that sold ciggies singly), Uptown Broadway Building, the hotel at Racine/Leland that Heartland Alliance owns, the Loreli on Lawrence, the Riviera building, the Annoyance Theatre/Marigold building, and probably more that I can't think of.

    With luck, money will continue to flow into Uptown for restoration and some of our other "dumps" will get restored to their former selves.

  4. It's funny how you glorify gangsters from long ago but despise present day gangbangers.

  5. Glorify? How so? Just talking about what happened here 75 years ago.

    Gangsters are despicable, whether they're shooting up the streets of Uptown in 1933 or 2008. I'm just not afraid of John Dillinger killing my kid, like the bozos who are out there tonight.

  6. I agree with caring neighbor. The history of the neighborhood is just that. We all enjoy knowing what happenned in our neighborhood back in the day. The senseless gang wars and drive bys of today won't be read with any interest 50 years from now.

  7. Does anyone know any history of the building on Sheridan/Agatite specifically?