Sam Giancana's house: The historic home Oak Park would like to forget

March 9, 2012

Oak Park has three historic districts and dozens of historic buildings. There is no official recognition of the bungalow on the northwest corner of Wenonah and Fillmore. This is where Sam Giancana lived--and where he was murdered.

He was born Salvatore Giangana in the Taylor Street Italian settlement in 1908. After apprenticing in a teen gang he graduated to the Capone mob. In 1933 he married, and moved into a three-flat at 2822 W. Lexington Street.

Giancana climbed the organizational ladder using talents that can best be left to the imagination. He served time for operating an illegal still. During World War II he was rejected for military service. The reason given was a "constitutional psychopathic state and inadequate personality, manifested in strong anti-social tendencies."

By now Giancana had three daughters. In April 1945 he purchased a bungalow at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park for $32,000. That's about $400,000 in today's money--and he paid cash.

The Giancanas joined St. Bernardine parish in nearby Forest Park. Though Sam wasn't often seen at Mass, his daughter Antoinette remembered that he donated an altar rail to the church. That particular gift has since been removed.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park. He didn't bother his neighbors, and they certainly didn't bother him. He was devoted to his wife Angeline--but that didn't stop him from becoming involved with other women. Mrs. Giancana died in 1954, and Sam never remarried.

As the 1950s moved into the 1960s, Giancana became the public face of the Chicago Outfit. He was always in the news.

Did he steal the 1960 election for Kennedy? Was he part of a plot to kill Castro? Was he involved in the Kennedy assassination? And what ladies did he romance? There's plenty of literature out there about these matters.

In 1965 Giancana was jailed for refusing to testify before a grand jury. He moved to Mexico after his release, but kept the Oak Park house. In 1974 the feds brought him back home for further questioning.

Now Giancana was scheduled to appear before a Senate subcommittee. Before he could testify he was killed in his basement by multiple gunshots. The date was June 19, 1975. The crime remains unsolved.

A few years after the murder, I bought a house down the block on Wenonah. The only thing my neighbors said about Sam Giancana was that they missed the FBI men who used to keep his place under surveillance. Having them around 24/7 made the neighborhood feel safer.