Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Old photos found in St. Petersburg's "Capone house" renew the mystery

ST. PETERSBURG

What secrets might lie beneath the fireplace mantel?

Curious, real estate agent Dan Nease slowly hoisted off the heavy wooden slab. And there in the soot, apparently untouched for decades, was a yellowed photo from 1931.

Pure coincidence? Or more evidence that this Shore Acres house was built by gangster Al Capone, who went to prison in the same year — 1931 — that the house was first sold.

Since a Jan. 28 Times story on current efforts to sell the Capone place, there have been numerous offers and a visit from a Mexican TV crew in town to cover the Super Bowl but looking for quirky stories on the side. While waiting for the reporter and cameraman, Nease decided to take a peek under the mantel of the white-brick fireplace with fish tiles — fish purportedly appear in every house Capone owned.

Curled in the soot were two small black and white photos. One, undated, is of two men and a woman standing beneath what appears to be a rock formation. The other shows two women and three men, posed in front of a body of water and what appears to be a railroad trestle. The back of this photo bears a postmark: Grand Island, Neb., Oct. 20, 1931.

Who are these people? Where were the photos taken? And is there any connection to Capone?

When built in 1925, the house was on the water but if there was ever a bridge, it's long since gone. Intriguingly, though, Capone had a brother who lived in Nebraska. He went by the name James Hart ("Capone'' might have attracted a little too much unwanted attention back then), and Hart's son and grandson are still there, according to Jonathan Eig, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who's writing a book on Capone.

The Times e-mailed both photos to Eig to see whether he could identify the people. He couldn't but made this observation:

"They're not dressed well enough to be gangsters!''

Since Capone's day, the house has had several owners, among them a prolific home flipper who sold it for $740,000 in 2006 at the peak of the real estate boom. The buyer defaulted, and the house is back with Countrywide Home Loans, which initially listed it at $262,000. It's now at $254,900.

"We've had several offers, but the bank has not accepted any,'' says Scott Samuels, liquidation specialist for ReMax Metro in St. Petersburg. "But with all the publicity, they've paid a whole lot of money to have the inside and outside painted.''

The loud colors are gone, replaced by softer taupes and beiges. The new owner will still have a lot of work to do — there are visible signs of termites, the yard is a wreck and the kitchen badly needs updating.

Still, how many houses can boast such a rich, mysterious past? Did Capone, who went to prison for tax evasion, stash some loot under the hardwood floors? Are there gems hidden in the attic? And who are those people in the photos? If you have a clue, give us a shout.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com.

Old photos found in St. Petersburg's "Capone house" renew the mystery 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mother of double amputee Ireland Nugent to lose her own lower right leg

    Human Interest

    Ever since Ireland Nugent lost both her lower legs in a lawn-mowing accident five years ago, the Clearwater girl has inspired her mother, Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, with the courage she has shown in overcoming the tragedy.

    Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, left, looked on as her daughter Ireland threw out the first pitch when the Tampa Bay Rays played the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field on June 22, 2014. Jerry Nugent held his daughter for the pitch. Now Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent is facing surgery to amputate her own lower right leg due to a rare infection. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times (2014)
  2. Chris Archer knocked out early as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Another short outing by Chris Archer led to another long afternoon for the Rays in a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.

    Chris Archer has not gotten past four innings in four of his past five starts. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where's this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?

    Bucs

    O NO

    True, the Bucs defense looked pretty leaky in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings. But you know what needs to happen when the defense is getting torched? The offense needs to step up. In games such as these, with defensive players seemingly getting hurt every play, the offense needs to outscore the other …

    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) intercepts a Jameis Winston pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs-Vikings: Instant analysis from Tampa Bay's 34-17 loss

    Bucs

    MINNEAPOLIS — Here's Rick Stroud and Tom Jones' instant analysis from the Bucs' 34-17 loss at Minnesota Sunday. More to come from Rick & Tom — and Greg Auman —- from Minneapolis later today.

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright (17) dives over the pylon for a touchdown as  Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Worst-Case scenario: Case Keenum, Vikings hand Bucs 34-17 loss

    Bucs

    MINNEAPOLIS — With key defensive starters out with injury, the Bucs were dominated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, with fill-in quarterback Case Keenum beating Tampa Bay for the third year in a row, …

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]