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“Bathhouse” John Coughlin; Chicago Alderman / Poet / Barkeep

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Uploaded by on Jan 26, 2012

Chicago’s 1st ward encompasses the wealth of downtown and the large population of transients that used to populate the near south side. A combination that made it a powerfull aldermanic post. John “Bathouse” Coughlin was a flamboyant character who was alderman for more than forty years. For a good portion of those decades he along with his partner Mike “Hinky Dink” Kenna were the center of power in Chicago. Mike McDonald may have been the first vice baron in Chicago but The Bath and The Hink were the first to really organize vice and gambling and turn it into political power in the Windy City. Big Jim Colissimo was a bagman for them before inheriting their vice racket.

In this clip we see a pair of establishments The Bath operated on Madison st. In downtown Chicago. Where St. Peters church now stands used to be the spot where the Brevoort Hotek once stood, In the basement of this luxury hotel (the first in Chicago with an elevator) was John’s bathhouse. Just a few doors west is where he operated the Silver Dollar Saloon.
And if three careers were not enough Mr. Coughlin was also a poet and a bon vivant who wanted to lead a revolution in man’s dress.

So out hats off to you Bathhouse John you might have been a corrupt grafter but you were an honest one. If you’d like to read more about John and his partner try and track down a copy of “Lords of the Levee” by Wendt & Kogan at your library.

This clip is part of a series produced by MindsiMedia and presented on ChiTownView ‘s YouTube station. We are getting some Chicago crime history in HBO’s series “Boardwalk Empire” and more will be on display when the film version of Eric Larsen’s “Devil In The White City”. Our series shows some of the famous places in Chicago crime history as they exist today. While telling some of that history with each clip.

The Levee, Birthplace of Chicago’s Organized Crime

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

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/

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