From the outside it could be the Miami Beach mansion of any Versace-clad millionaire. Located on Palm Island, just off the Florida coast, it has shiny white walls, towering palm trees and the obligatory swimming pool. As well as the enormous main home, there is a two-story guesthouse and a pool cabana. It is easy to imagine the owners hosting parties for rappers and actors.Yet 85 years ago, on February 14 1929, the property was the scene of a very different sort of party. Its owner, the mobster Al Capone, threw a lavish bash for his friends in the area. A thousand miles away, on the north side of Chicago, seven members of George “Bugs” Moran’s gang were lined up against the wall of a garage and shot dead with machine guns.The Valentine’s Day Massacre would become one of the most notorious events of the mobster era. Capone had promised not to organize any further gang activity after he moved to Miami, and the party provided him with the perfect alibi. Nonetheless, in the wake of the incident, Capone doubled the number of his guards and added extra fortifications.Now the mansion is for sale for $8.44m. Built in 1922, the house is part of a 30,000 sq ft waterfront estate. The seven-bedroom main house is 6,000 sq ft – room for you and plenty of your accomplices.“Al Capone bought it in 1928,” “He chose it when he was sent out of Los Angeles and Chicago. During the Prohibition, Miami was one of the best places to be for smuggling. It was very close to the Caribbean and particularly Havana, where lots of alcohol came from.” Capone’s arrival caused a stir, even in a city famed for its organized crime.He fell in love with the house, and spent much time and energy converting it to his rather specific needs.
“Capone basically transformed the house into a real castle, and a bunker for himself,” he says. “You can see from the structure of the place that it was very well fortified. The walls are high, and the doors are made from heavy iron. He had bodyguards and big, fierce dogs stationed along the perimeter. He also added a large swimming pool, white marble all around and the two-bedroom cabana.” Capone’s stay in Miami was not trouble-free. In 1930 the authorities finally caught up with him and he was jailed. Not for smuggling, extortion, murder or any other of his nefarious gang work, but for the rather less glamorous crime of tax-evasion. He spent eight years in jail, including a stint on Alcatraz, off the coast of San Francisco. When Capone returned from prison to the home in 1939, he was not the same gangster. He suffered increasingly from dementia brought on by his syphilis. Towards the end of his life, his family even hired a nurse to pose as a chauffeur, in order to protect members of the public from Capone’s outbursts of violence.The famous mobster died in 1947, and the house was inherited by Capone’s widow, Mae, and son Al Jr. They were unable to care for the property in the same way he had, and it fell into disrepair. The title deed vanished, only to reappear in 1971 when the property was bought by Hank Morrison, a retired airline pilot, for £42,000. By then the house was run down. Morrison spent a fortune doing it up, before renting it out as separate units. The home was again refurbished in 2011 and is now owned by a company run by a New York accountant.
There have been many changes to the property over the years, and Capone would not recognize many parts. But the general structure is similar, and some rooms – such as the black and gold Art Deco powder room – are unchanged since Capone’s day. The security features that once kept rival gang members and the police at bay now guarantee you privacy in the sunshine. Miami is a glamorous centre of art, music, culture and shopping, with plenty of festivals and fairs. And 80 years after prohibition, it still has an undercurrent of Caribbean-tinged mischief that makes it a mecca for party-seekers. The airport has frequent flights back to London and all over the world.
For a buyer seeking a gorgeous beachfront villa with an unusual – if slightly macabre – past, this could be an offer you can’t refuse