The Terrible Gennas – Part 1

When people think of Chicago gangsters of the 20s, they normally think of Capone and his south side gang vs. the mostly-Irish North Siders. But here were plenty more. In the center of these two gangs were a coupe of groups like the Circus Gang and the Terrible Gennas, a group of brothers known for being particularly bloodthirsty. Capone and the North Siders actually teamed up to get rid of them.

When prohibition became law, the Gennas hit on the idea of getting permission to make booze legally – you could manufacture industrial alcohol with the government’s permission. So that’s what they did. They would re-distill the stuff and sell it as a drink. In this manner, they soon controlled the Little Italy of the near-west side. They hid still in houses all over the neighborhood, paying the owners 15 bucks a day (roughly 400-500 bucks in today’s money). To be able to pay this kind of money, they must have been making a whole butt load of money. Of course, they got greedy and tried to expand out of Little Italy. Just as the north and south side gangs were going to war in late 1924, they started trying to undercut both gangs. Big mistake.

Bugs Moran, the target of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, got into a high speed chase with Angelo Genna and shot him to death. Mike Genna got into a firefight with the north siders and ended up shot by the cops. Then, in a rare show of unity with the north siders, Al Capone himself supposedly ordered the hit on Tony Genna, who was shot at a grocery store on Grand and Aberdeen.

The grocery store building is still standing. It’s not a grocery store any more, just an apartment that I’m not even totally sure is occupied; several apartments along the strip now serve only to prop up billboards to be seen by cars on the highway that half the neighborhood would eventually be torn down to make way for.

Here’s the place where it stands today:

The surviving Genna brothers wisely left Chicago.