While most know Valentine’s Day as the holiday of love and affection, some remember it for a different reason: the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre.
Back during the prohibition era, the streets of Chicago were torn between two rival gangs, Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang and Bugs Moran’s North Side Irish gang. On the morning of February 14, 1929, Valentine’s Day, five members from Bugs Moran’s gang and two local gang collaborators were lined up against the back wall of the garage at 2122 North Clark Street and executed. The executioners were gangsters hired from outside Chicago by Al Capone, who wanted the attack to be a complete surprise.
The executing gangsters were dressed in varying styles of clothing; two dressed as police offers, while the rest wore suits, ties, and general businessman attire – not the usual gangster costumes. Two of the shooters used Thompson sub-machine guns, one equipped with a 50-round drum and the other a 20-round box magazine. The shooters sprayed round after round into the seven gangsters lined along the wall, even continuing to shoot after the victims fell to the floor. The coroner’s report claims some of the executed gangsters were literally torn apart by the volley of bullets.
After the shooting stopped, the two false police officers led the fellow conspiring gang members out by gunpoint, so as to look like an arrest was taking place. The gang members then fled the scene.
But a local neighbor, Mrs. Landesman, sensed something was not quite right, so she sent one of her tenants to go look at the scene. The tenant became sick at the sight of seven bodies bleeding all over the garage’s floor, and he called for an ambulance.
Frank Gusenberg, one of the men gunned down, was still breathing, and emergency medical staff immediately rushed him to a local hospital. After the doctors stabilized Frank, police asked him to describe who shot him. He replied, “Nobody shot me,” even though his body had clearly sustained fourteen bullet wounds. He died three hours later.
This event drew mass attention to the gang activities within Chicago, and some attribute the event with the eventual downfall of Capone’s mob.
But here’s an interesting question: What happened to the garage where the massacre took place?
In 1967, the garage was demolished and is now a landscaped parking lot for a nursing home. As for the bricks that once comprised the wall where seven men were gunned down, those 414 bricks were purchased by George Patey, who painstakingly dismantled the wall, numbered the bricks, and then shipped them to his home in Canada.
In 1971, Patey opened the Banjo Palace nightclub, where he installed the bricks in the men’s restroom. Patey shielded the bricks with a Plexiglas shield, which he painted targets onto, so as to encourage men to use their urine to reenact the massacre. The nightclub closed in 1976.
In 1978, Time Magazine reported that Patey reassembled the wall and put it on display in a wax museum. The museum featured a scene of gangsters shooting each other in front of the wall. But the wax museum later went bankrupt.
The bricks were then placed in storage until 1997, when Patey tried to auction them off. A Las Vegas casino offered $175,000 for all of the bricks, but Patey refused. In 1999, Patey tried to sell off individual bricks and managed to get rid of approximately a hundred.
Patey passed away on December 26, 2004, with the brick collection going to his niece, who then sold the remaining bricks to a Las Vegas mob museum.