The Stockade

The Stockade
The Stockade

The Maple Inn, popularly known in the Chicago area as the Stockade, was the largest brothel run by the Torrio-Capone syndicate in the 1920s. But flesh peddling was not the Stockade's claim to fame. Rather, the whorehouse was one of the very few 20th-century Mafia operations ever to be the target of vigilante action.

It was Capone's technique to take over communities just beyond the Chicago city line and engage in excesses far beyond those carried out within the city itself. The suburban village of Forest View soon came to be referred to by Chicagoans as "Caponeville."

Booze wars, murder, gambling dens, physical intimidation of public officials and above all prostitution greatly upset the decent citizens of Forest View. Law enforcement officials remained doggedly unable or unwilling to meet this gangster invasion and rape of what had previously been a quiet community.

The symbol of the Capone blight on Forest View was the Stockade, an immense old stone-and-wood structure that housed gaming rooms and a bar, as well as a 60-girl whorehouse. However, the Stockade was more than just that. It was a hideout for wanted Capone gangsters and an arsenal with secret chambers hidden behind false walls, floors and ceilings.

Within this labyrinth was an extra-large chamber to which the whores could retreat in case of a raid. For the gangster on the run, there was a particularly lavish room beneath the eaves soundproofed with cork lining. The fugitive in residence enjoyed a most comfortable living area with deep pile rugs, comfortable couches and easy chairs.

There was also a speaking tube to place orders for food and drink which was conveyed to the hideaway by dumbwaiter. The puncture eyes of female figures painted on the ceiling gave the secreted criminal an overview of the rooms below, including the saloon and gambling hall. The secret compartment contained a number of steel-lined panels built into the walls in which were stored dynamite, grenades, shotguns, rifles, automatic pistols, machine guns and ammunition.

The residents of Forest View felt helpless against this Capone invasion stronghold—until 1926, when State's Attorney Robert E. Crowe, taking considerable heat at the time for a scandal involving his aides cooperating with gangsters, ordered an attack on Capone's suburban empire.

Among the joints hit was the Stockade, and axe-wielding raiders smashed slot machines, crap tables, roulette wheels, beer barrels and cases of whiskey, and hauled away the prostitutes as well as the ledgers and a safe jammed with cash receipts.

Capone accepted this for what it was meant to be—a short-lived inconvenience—and he planned to keep the resort closed for a short period before a gala reopening. Since there appeared to be little to protect, the mob kept only a skeleton crew of guard over the Stockade.

The following night Forest View vigilantes struck, attacking in a convoy of automobiles. The Stockade was set ablaze in a half-dozen places. Frantic Caponeites sounded fire alarms and several nearby fire brigades arrived. However, they made no effort to stop the fire, only seeking to prevent its spreading to neighboring homes.

"Why don't you do something?" an irate gangster demanded of a firefighter.

"Can't spare the water," was the laconic reply.

Ironically, the Capone forces were angered by such a departure from the standards of law and order and demanded an investigation.

"Investigate?" Chicago deputy chief John Stege, a determined Capone enemy, said. "I should say not. No doubt the flames were started by some good people of the community." And the Reverend William H. Tuttle said, "I appreciate the wonderful news. I am sure no decent person will be sorry."

Faced with such citizen opposition, the Capones backed down. Indeed, over the next few years Capone began backing away from blatant prostitution activities, especially in stiff-necked suburban areas, because of the hostility it aroused and the vigilante passions it nurtured. It was a learning experience for organized crime.