Home > Chi Town Views > The Levee, Birthplace of Chicago’s Organized Crime

The Levee, Birthplace of Chicago’s Organized Crime

Also known as the most corrupt spot on the planet was an experiment in social engineering carried out by “Hinky Dink” McKenna and Alderman John “Bath House” Coughlin. They were a pair rouge Chicago politicians who thought the citizens of Chicago would be best served by concentrating vice in one or two areas,under their control. The Levy in the video was located between 19th & Cermak and Sate & Clark streets. It was “created” to move a smaller contained vice district just south of the rapidly developing downtown “loop area”. It was moved into a much larger area also to handle the expected crowds for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

The Levee was just like the fair was a world-class exposition home to over two hundred brothels and saloons. With names like; The House of All Nations, The Little Green House, Bed Bug Row, the Bucket of Blood, The Why Not(the city’s first S&M club), The Sapho, Freidberg’s Dance Hall, and the Everleigh Club. The latter was a world renown sporting house operated the Everleigh sisters. And it was pimp and gangster “Big” Jim Colosimo who controled this area for McKenna and Coughlin. It operated in this pretty much wide open manner for almost twenty years. Then in 1912 a lurid, scathing report was issued called “The Social Evil in Chicago ” and it effectively blew the lid off the Levee. The report in conjunction with a larger social movement for legally controlling vice spelled the end of the Levee.

And now even the streets where it once stood are now gone replaced by a towering senior citizens apartment complex. Of course the vice wasn’t eliminated by closing down the Levee it just wasn’t on such public display. The Levee made Mr. Colosimo a very wealthy  and powerful man who kept his control over vice. In 1910 he opened a high-class restaurant  Colosimo’s Cafe” at 2126 S. Wabash on the eastern fringes of his empire. If you’ve seen HBO’s Boardwalk Empire then you know that this is where Big Jim was killed under orders of Johnny Torrio his second in command. The killing said to have been carried out by Al Capone.
Big Jims cafe is a memory in its place stands (lays?) the parking lot for a 1920’s style dinner theater Tommy Guns Garage. One of the few places that pay homage to Chicago’s unsavory past. They are well worth checking out here is a link to their site. http://www.tommygunsgarage.com/index.htm
At any rate just down the street at 2222 S. Wabash Torrios headquarters The 4 Duces. Home to woman, whiskey and gambling. Imported by Torrio from New York to act as bouncer was a young Al Capone. As prohibition was becoming the law of the land Torrio was eager to organize this soon to be illicit vice. Big Jim was getting older and perhaps more refined wanted no part of it. So in the end as they say “he had to go”.  Torrio had Big Jim killed and went on to organize the distribution of booze along with the rest of crime in Chicago.

This clip is part of the series “The Outfit Now & Then” produced by MindsiMedia and presented on ChiTownView’s YouTube station. We show a mixture of crime scenes and homes associated with different Chicago mobsters and tell a little history with each clip.  On our blog we have started posting a history of this organization that for many years had an incredible amount of influence and power over the second largest city in the country. While this may have been true for most of the big cities the level of influence in Chicago and many nearby suburbs was much stronger. In the HBO series Boardwalk Empire they have a storyline that is based the Chicago outfit and it’s where we start our series.

Follow this link to our blog then link up to different videos from there.
https://mindsimedia.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/the-outfit-a-look-at-big-jim-scarface-momo-the-rest-of-the-chicago-mob-part-1/

In researching our information we have come across some great sources;
MyAlCaponeMuseum. http://www.myalcaponemuseum.com/index.htm
The Outlaw Journals. http://www.babyfacenelsonjournal.com/index.html
ChicagoCrimeSceneProject. http://chicagocrimescenes.blogspot.com/

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: