Note: This story was originally published in March of 2015 by Dana Herndon and has been updated with the latest details. As of April 19, 2018, the home is listed for $14.9 million after undergoing numerous renovations by MB America.
In case you've ever wanted to see what it's like inside a notorious gangster's home, you will be happy to learn that the interiors of Al Capone's 1922 Mediterranean Revival estate on Palm Island are prepped and camera ready for the next booty-poppin' Rick Ross music video or riveting Telemundo novela.
A little over a year before the 93-year old historic home would be purchased by European soccer agent Mino Riaola for $9 million in August of 2016, the estate underwent a major renovation spearheaded by Miami-based, Italian-run MB America.
According to MB America CEO Marco Bruzzi, the property was previously acquired for around $8 million with over $1.4 million in renovations. The architecture and design of the Capone compound renovation was led by MB America co-founder and architect Monica Melotti.
Considering that its intended function was for video and audio production, Monica and her team did a commendable job maintaining some of the original details of the storied property, including wooden multi-pane windows, windows with their original crank shaft mechanisms, and a black and yellow mosaic bathroom with original brass elements in the main entrance. The L-shaped 6,077-square-foot main structure sits on a 30,000 square-foot waterfront site, according to Miami-Dade property records.
The two-story stucco house is awash in white -- topped with white terra-cotta roof tiles (which were probably originally red), and accented with white awnings. Inside, the renovation of the first floor is mostly complete, while upstairs is still gutted. A large, covered loggia on both sides of the living room flank the house, meant for natural cooling and cross-ventilation in pre-air conditioning days.
The house still does not have central air (despite a large crawl space that extends underneath the house which would have been ideal to hold ductwork, and a bootlegger's stash) but is instead cooled with not-so-glamorous units mounted on the walls.
Some amenities include a red coral miniature lighthouse fountain with a bridge installed in a series of renovations made by Capone, a pool house with a bedroom and floor to ceiling mosaic bathroom, mini private beach and a seven-foot white cement wall perimeter.
According to historian Paul George from HistoryMiami, speaking at a press event at the mansion, Miami had already experienced a rise and fall by the time Al Capone reached our shores. In the 1920s Miami had a boost in tourism because, for the first time, middle class (or at least upper middle class) Americans had the time and money to travel for leisure. Union workers were getting more paid vacations, pensions and fringe benefits that were previously unheard of.
Furthermore, to accommodate outside investors, Miami authorities liberalized rules for dog and horse racing, so naturally, northerners came to sultry, sweaty Miami to partake in profitable, illegal business endeavors.
The PR and marketing vision of flamboyant developers like Carl G. Fisher also helped secure Miami's image as a tropical paradise to rally outside investors (Carl once purchased an illuminated billboard in Times Square proclaiming "It's Always June in Miami"—soon after that billboards with sunbathing beauties pointing to Miami were popping up everywhere). All this led to the great Florida land boom of the 1920s when scores new cities and high-rises were built from scratch (déjà vu, anyone?).
By the mid-1920s Miami Beach was known as the premiere beach resort destination in the United States, according to Paul George, which coincided with the massive real estate boom that transformed the area. The tremendous building boom in Greater Miami reached its peak in 1925 and dramatically collapsed in 1926.
To make matters worse, the Great Miami Hurricane ripped through the city later that year—starting what some say is the beginning of the Great Depression in Miami. As Greater Miami's economy was clawing to come back, Miami Beach was one of the first districts to rebuild itself given its mass tourist appeal.
Al Capone came to Miami Beach in 1927 and bought the Palm Island property in 1928 from Clarence M. Busch (not to be confused with the famous brewing Busch family from St. Louis). It is said that Capone was drawn to the property because it reminded him of the sunny shores of Italy (although apparently he had never set foot on Italian soil).
Needless to say, Capone did not receive a warm welcome from the Miami authorities. Many were outraged by his presence – leading to multiple questionable arrests of the man. According to Paul George, Florida Governor Doyle Carlton told every leader in every county to do what they could to prevent the gangster's move into Miami.
Obviously, it didn't work but they were determined to make his stay in Miami as uncomfortable as possible. The City of Miami called his home "a menace to the safety and well-being of residents" and the State of Florida declared martial law and ordered the immediate arrest of Capone. Miami press at the time was also excited to report and propagandize Capone's famous spaghetti and steak parties, at which according to Paul George, alcohol was not served. (Capone was the target of an extreme Hollywood propaganda campaign that painted the gangster as a ruthless, blood-thirsty murderer – an image that is refuted by his great grandniece Diedre Marie Capone, who was also present at the open house and plans to set the record straight on her great uncle in a movie she's releasing on his life in 2017).
On the other side of things, Miamians were happy to receive him as he had plenty of cash, and the willingness to spend it freely, to stimulate Miami's economy. From 1928 until his death on January 25, 1947, Al Capone used his Palm Island estate as a getaway from his life as a big time Chicago gangster. He died from a stroke in a small bedroom facing the driveway—Dana Herndon
· Al Capone's house coverage [Curbed Miami]
· MB America [mbamerica.net]
· Florida in the 1920s [Floridahistory.org]
· Gangster Paradise [Dark Oak Press]
· Uncle Al Capone [unclealcapone.com]
· Al Capone’s Miami Beach mansion asks $14.9M [Curbed Miami]