Bicycle lady in Al Capone's house

September 26, 1990|By Mary Pearce

Around Mt. Washington I am known as the bicycle lady who lives in Al Capone's house.

I live in the red brick house on Pimlico Road where Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone lived from November 1939 to March 1940. Indeed, I live in the same second floor apartment that Capone rented.

According to a Jan. 8, 1940, Evening Sun story, "Capone moves into Mt. Washington home," Scarface Al came to Baltimore on Nov. 16, 1939, following his release from federal prison at Lewisburg, Pa. That same day he checked into Union Memorial Hospital.

He was released in January and immediately moved into my apartment with his wife, Mae, his mother, Teresa, and his brothers John and Ralph. There he stayed under the care of Dr. Joseph Earle Moore and Dr. Manfred S. Guttmacher until early spring. He used the alias "Martini" at the hospital and "Rossi" at the apartment.

Scarface Al had been sentenced to prison for 11 years.

Although he had ordered the execution of over 500 men, he was prosecuted, as the New York Times put it, for "the comparatively sissy charge of evasion of income taxes."

He served part of that sentence at the federal prison in Atlanta, then was sent to the dreaded Alcatraz, where he was given to fits of violence, going "stir crazy." Still, he skimmed four years off his sentence for good behavior.

By the time Capone was released from Lewisburg, the man glorified by the London Express as "the greatest gangster of them all" was a paretic, ravaged syphilitic.

On the snowy day Capone moved to Mt. Washington, his brother John Capone and Moore, armed with prepared statements, met with reporters. They refused to explain the exact nature of his illness, saying only that he had a "nervous disorder." But insiders at Union Memorial knew the story.

Capone never did return to "work." On March 21, 1940, Mt. Washington neighbors said Capone left shortly after dawn in a rust-colored car, and other family members left in separate taxis. They showed up at the Capone mansion at Miami Beach, where Scarface planned to retire. His health continued to fail, and on Jan. 25, 1947, he died at 48.

Just as it did when Capone lived here, the big red brick house has five apartments, and one in the little house around back.

Capone wasn't here in June, when the sidewalk became stained with the blood of squashed mulberries and when baby birds tumbled out of the nests to the delight of well-fed domestic cats. Nor was he here during the racing season, to hear the race calls from nearby Pimlico.

Mice dart across the kitchen floor. A cricket hops past the sun porch. One sultry night a bat flew in my bedroom.

The ghost of Al Capone smiles.

Mary Pearce writes from Baltimore.

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