OAK PARK – This Fall you can immerse yourself in the world of some of Chicago’s legendary organized crime figures.
It’s all part of the “There Goes the Neighbor Hood” Oak Park River Forest Gangster Tour happening on September 18 and October 16.
John Binder is a historian and author of Al Capone’s Beer Wars and The Chicago Outfit; plus he’s the guide for the tour and WGN News Now spoke to him about what tourist can expect.
“It’s essentially a deep immersion of the history of organized crime in Chicago. It goes by 13 houses that were once owned by major Chicago gangsters in the two suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest. I tell the story of each guy and his career ,the features of the house, his family, his later career, and by the time we’re done we’re talking about organized crime in Chicago from the 1920s up to 1980s.”
The two- and half-hour luxury bus tour is strictly an exterior tour, and tourists don’t get to go inside the homes, however Binder has been inside 10 of the 13 homes and can talk about the unusual features of the homes including secret tunnels and hidden rooms. Tourists also receive a handout of the sites on the tour and can ask Binder questions along the way.
The featured gangsters include Tony Accardo, Paul Ricca, Sam Giancana, Sam “Teets” Battaglia, “Tough Tony” Capezio, and “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn.Binder said the “Chicago hoodlums” didn’t really do any bad things in the homes.
“The homes are places where these guys lived. And Oak Park River Forest as suburbs have always been squeaky clean. They were not filled with mob activity. So, this is where these guys lived not where they worked,” said Binder. “And so that they weren’t bothered by the local authorities they pretty much scrupulously obeyed the law, and the oak park river forest police couldn’t do anything cause these guys basically violated no local laws or ordinances. I mean after a busy day of racketeering these guys wanted to come home, kick off their shoes and relax. Not have the local police coming in with warrants and arresting them.”
The “There Goes the Neighbor Hood” Oak Park River Forest Gangster Tour will be held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday September 18 and Sunday October 16.
The bus will depart from the Roos Recreation Center at 7329 W. Harrison St. in Forest Park and tickets are $40 per person, $36 for Seniors 65+ and $36 for Active Military.
“I think people will enjoy the tour. This is not some gimmicky thing where I dress up in a fedora with a cigar in my mouth and wear old school gangster clothing… this is legitimate history. I mean admittedly these guys did bad things and had very lengthy criminal careers but it’s still a legitimate part of history. We don’t shy away from people who did bad things in history.”
You can learn more about the tour in the video above.