Sorry, Scarface. Your beloved Miami Beach house, which you purchased for $40,000 in 1928, is scheduled to be torn down. The new owners of your Florida refuge, who purchased it for $10.75 million this summer, told the Miami Herald that the house has flood damage and standing water under it. One of the owners, prominent local developer Todd Glaser, told the Herald, “The house is a piece of crap. It’s a disgrace to Miami Beach.”
Now, Al, please don’t grab your Thompson submachine gun. After all, Glaser, like you, is “just a businessman, giving the people what they want.” And what the new owners think people want is a modern spec mansion with eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a spa, and a sauna. That’s much more than the main house today, which was built in 1922 and offers just four bedrooms and three and a half baths. In addition to the main villa, the property currently features two more structures, a gate house and a pool cabana.
Bought in his wife’s name in 1928 — the seller was Clarence Busch, an heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, the Palm Island mansion became Capone’s beloved retreat when things became too hot for him in Chicago. Working long distance, Capone figured, would prove to the police he wasn’t involved in Chicago crime. But in Miami, not everyone was welcoming. “I wanted a home,” Capone said. “I bought one. And what happens? They tell me I’m not wanted. Yet they take my money. … What do they want me to do? Get an airplane and live up in the clouds?”
Not long after moving in, Capone spent $200,000 (about $2.85 million today) to create a luxurious and heavily fortified compound fit for a crime boss trying to look respectable. In addition to the gatehouse and pool cabana, he added a coral rock grotto, a seven-foot-high security wall, and searchlights. Next up was the rubbing out of a rival gang, and for that, Capone figured he had the perfect alibi. After all, he was more than a thousand miles away.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred on February 14, 1929. Seven members of a rival gang were lined up against a wall in Chicago and shot by four men, two of whom were dressed as police officers. According to the FBI, a doctor’s affidavit stated that Capone had been suffering from bronchial pneumonia and was confined to his bed on Palm Island from January 13 to February 23, 1929. The FBI subpoenaed Capone, but his lawyers said that with his health so precarious, Capone couldn’t travel from Florida to Chicago.
Unfortunately for Capone, he was a well-known figure and had been seen at the Hialeah racetrack in good health during the period, and even traveled to the Bahamas. (Ooops!) They didn’t get him on the massacre but in 1931 Capone was convicted of tax evasion and sent to Alcatraz, along with several associates who included his brother Ralph “Bottles” Capone along with Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik, and Frank Nitti. Upon release in 1938, owing to ill health from syphilis complications, Capone returned to Miami and stayed there until his death of a heart attack in 1947.
Capone’s wife Mae sold the house in 1952. Now, though, Miami is torn: is the property worth saving as a landmark, even though its owner was a brutal killer? Or should it be razed and made into something better? The .69-acre property, listed with Nelson Gonzalez at BHHS EWM Realty, can be purchased in its current state for $16.9 million. However, if no one moves forward with purchasing the historic home, a new mansion will likely rise in its place.
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