- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) | Chicago mobster Al Capone’s former hide-out in northern Wisconsin, complete with guard towers and a stone house with 18-inch-thick walls, was sold for $2.6 million Thursday to the bank that foreclosed on it.

Chippewa Valley Bank was the only bidder during a five-minute sheriff’s sale in the lobby of the county courthouse in Hayward, Margie Schull of the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department, said. About 30 to 40 people watched as Sheriff Jim Meier conducted the auction, Miss Schull said.

The bank foreclosed on the 407-acre wooded site about 150 miles northwest of Wausau in April 2008 and said the minimum bid would be $2.6 million. The bank had advertised the site as “very private and pristine.”

Bank Vice President Joe Kinnear did not return a telephone call after the sale. He said earlier Thursday that he anticipated “10 to 15 bidders.”

Capone owned the land in the late 1920s and early 1930s during Prohibition, the bank said. Local legend claims that shipments of bootleg alcohol were flown in on planes that landed on the property’s 37-acre lake, and were then loaded onto trucks bound for Chicago.

The two guard towers on the property reportedly were manned with machine guns whenever Capone visited.

The bank acquired the property after foreclosing on owner Guy Houston and his company, the Hideout Inc., according to court records. The Houston family bought the property in the 1950s from Capone’s estate and had operated it as a seasonal bar and restaurant, known for its prime rib, and offered guided tours focusing on the Capone lore.

Capone - nicknamed “Scarface” - headed a massive bootlegging, gambling and prostitution operation during Prohibition and raked in tens of millions of dollars. He was widely suspected in several murders but never charged.

He was considered the mastermind of the gangland killing on Chicago’s North Side in 1929, known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Seven rivals of Capone’s gang were gunned down in a garage, but investigators never could collect enough evidence to put anyone on trial for the deaths.

Capone was eventually convicted of income tax evasion and spent part of an 11-year sentence at the infamous Alcatraz prison. He died in 1947.

Mr. Kinnear said last month that there was interest in Capone’s one-time hide-out as a retreat or as possible land for development. It was once appraised at $3.7 million, he said.

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