The most publicized lore on the infamous gang lord surfaced 10 years ago
when Geraldo Rivera and his TV crew, armed with bulldozers, tried to uncover a
so-called cache of valuables from secret compartments at Capone's old
headquarters at the former Lexington Hotel in Chicago.
The hotel, which Capone called home between 1928 and 1932, had a maze of
built-in secret tunnels and staircases.
That futile search disappointed audiences, but fueled speculation on the
possibility that Capone may have stashed loot in other hideaways.
HOBART - The legend of Al "Scarface" Capone has taken on many forms and
faces since his death nearly 50 years ago.
But the notorious crime czar of the 1920s and '30s had a relationship to
Hobart that most agree is more truth than myth.
While Capone and his unlawful operations were firmly entrenched in Chicago,
it was reported that he and his henchmen traveled many times to Northwest
Indiana, not to the bustling steel mill district, but rather to the small rural
area in Hobart.
Richard Lines, a Hobart resident since 1934, says the secluded pastoral
setting nestled between the former Haven Hill and County K roads is probably
what convinced Capone worker Michael Carrozzo and his wife and three children
to move to a home located on what now is the grounds of the Supervisor's Club,
6700 Country Club Road.
Lines' assertion is backed by a report published in 1938.
"One report has it that the Carrozzo empire will be graced by no less a
personage than Al Capone himself when he finishes a one-year term in the county
jail after his release from Alcatraz next year," the article stated.
Lines, now the Supervisor's Club's general manager, said he recalls watching
entourages of long, black limousines, shrouded with smoke-colored windows, wind
around the narrow, two-lane road that led to the black wrought iron gates that
stood in front of the entrance at the Carrozzo house.
Carrozzo purchased his Hobart estate in the '30s. The club took over the
900-acre site in 1972.
"There were neighbors talking about body guards stepping out of the limos,
armed with machine guns, waiting to case the place," Lines said.
The tract was and still is enclosed by 6-foot Cyclone fences, topped with
Hobart was hardly a metropolis, with a population of only 5,787, but it was
quiet and secluded and likely held an appeal to Capone as well.
"It is said that Capone's friends, recalling the good fortune Dillinger
enjoyed in Lake County, have long-considered that to be the safest possible
haven for the leader in crime," the 1938 published report stated, citing John
Dillinger's escape from Lake County Jail in Crown Point in 1934.
"Dago Mike" Carrozzo, a Chicago union chief, was in charge of the 25 unions
of city street sweepers.
He was also a man whose name was familiar on Chicago police blotters.
Carrozzo's criminal track record dated back to 1914 and included numerous
arrests for concealed weapons, and an indictment for murder.
But there were no convictions to put him behind bars.
According to published reports, Carrozzo moved up the ranks of the mob world
under the tutelage of "Big Jim" Colosimo, another Chicago gangster kingpin.
Colosimo may have been his mentor, but it was Capone with whom Carrozzo is
said to have maintained a close camaraderie.
Carrozzo was described as "a Capone henchman and czar of the street
laborers' council in Chicago."
The $250,000 Carrozzo paid the Gruel family gave him rich farmland, several
outbuildings and a spacious two-story frame and stone house that boasted seven
baths, and an in-ground pool that eventually featured a cabana. He called the
site Superior Farms.
Carrozzo reportedly paid the sellers with a stack of crisp $1,000 bills.
Lake County sightings
Lines said it wasn't too long after Carrozzo moved into his home that
reports began to circulate about Capone using the location for weekend retreats.
There were even reports that Carrozzo had plans of offering a haven in
Hobart to his boss after Capone served a one-year sentence at Alcatraz.
Lines said he has little doubt that Capone's underworld links extended to
Lake County. Neither does longtime historian and curator of the Hobart
Historical Museum, Dorothy Ballantyne.
Ballantyne said she first heard about gangsters roaming the Hobart area back
in the '30s when she worked as a reporter for the Hobart Gazette, the city's
"My editor, J.E. Schofield, began doing serious research into the rumors
that were bandied about Carrozzo's move to the area," said Ballantyne. "It
became somewhat of a scandal to think that gangsters like Capone and Carrozzo
were in the area."
Ballantyne said that despite many reports by residents of armed guards
patrolling the property, the Gazette editor never uncovered any clues in county
records that would indicate Capone had more than a casual interest in the
"Still, there were some, even to this day, who like to believe otherwise,"
said Ballantyne, who maintains a file on Superior Farms and Carrozzo in the
library of the Hobart museum.
Lines got his own introduction to the Carrozzo family when he attended
classes with Carrozzo's daughter, Carol, at Ainsworth Elementary School.
He describes his former classmate as rather "ordinary," and remembered that
she never acted affected by the obvious wealth her father obtained through his
Lines said his brother also became friends with Carrozzo's teen-age sons.
He recalls that they often showed off their father's Austin car, driving the
vehicle around the grounds of the estate.
The large dairy barn on Carrozzo's land housed some 100 cows and also became
a favorite spot for school field trips, Lines said.
"We went there many times to check out the dairy operation," said Lines.
Lines said no one in the Ainsworth area may have suspected that Carrozzo had
any ties with Chicago's biggest mob chieftain.
"I think we all just thought that he was just some millionaire from
Chicago," said Lines.
IRS probes Carrozzo
It wasn't until Carrozzo and his lavish lifestyle came under the scrutiny of
the Internal Revenue Service that Carrozzo's name and reputation were pushed
into the public eye and put under a microscope.
In 1940, the IRS found Carrozzo owed $240,000 in back taxes for 1937 and
He was indicted for federal antitrust violations, but never went to trial.
Carrozzo beat the rap when the courts ruled that those violations weren't
applicable to unions.
His days as the wealthy land owner of Superior Farms and his trips to Lake
County ended when Carrozzo died of complications on Aug. 4, 1940, following
He was 45.
Lines said that Carrozzo's family continued to live in their Hobart home
several years after his untimely death.
No cache stashed
As to whether anything of monetary worth was stashed near the Carrozzo
house, Lines is doubtful.
"Believe me, I've been over every inch of this property with a fine-tooth
comb, and I've never found anything," he added.
Lines said even a water tank, which was a storage place for underground
water wells, never revealed anything of value. It has since been sealed shut.
The huge dairy barn, razed in the mid-1980s, had unique ceramic tile lining
its walls, but nothing more, Lines said.
Unlabeled case of booze
About the only find worth mentioning was the one former Lake County Coroner
Dr. Daniel D. Thomas located on his property, which was part of the Carrozzo
Now retired, Thomas recently sold the home near County Line Road that he
bought 33 years ago and lived in.
The 80-acre parcel included an air-landing strip, private lake, a half-mile
horse track, and a 16-stall horse barn with a sitting room.
Thomas still owns the barn and stables.
He said the structure is like no other he's ever seen before.
Thomas said the barn has a floor that opens up into lower level. He
speculates that it may have stored bootlegging equipment.
"I never found anything on the property except Carrozzo's family's initials
etched in the concrete and a case of unlabeled booze bottles that were
probably part of a bootleg operation," said Thomas. "I threw the case away."
Any mystery surrounding rumors that Alphonse Capone hid some of his wealth
at his pal's house in Lake County or elsewhere may have gone with him to his
grave when he died of advanced syphilis in 1947 and was buried in Chicago's
Mount Carmel Cemetery.
But like most legends that refuse to die, this one might have yet another
chapter waiting to unfold.
Lines said publications and TV stations from throughout the nation, and as
well as the Chicago area, have been inquiring about the Capone ties to Hobart.
"I'm not sure what the magic about Capone is, but everyone still wants to
hear about the Mafia King," Lines said.