For Deirdre Marie Capone, a visit to 93 Palm Ave. near Miami Beach feels like being in a time machine.
Even from the street, she can see that everything is still in its place: the simple arched garage door; the lily pond with grotto; the Spanish-style mansion. The palm trees, the guest house, and, of course, the enormous swimming pool with its two-story cabana that borders Biscayne Bay.
“Boy, this brings back some memories,” Capone, 72, says as she walks in.
It has been almost half a century since her last visit. But the images are still in her mind. The beautiful house on an exclusive oval construct just a mile off Miami Beach has a special past. Her grand-uncle bought it in 1928 as a summer residence. His name was Al Capone, and each time Deirdre came down from Chicago, she would watch the king of gangsters living in retirement.
In the decades since, the house has languished, occupied but falling into disrepair. After Capone died in 1947 and his wife Mae sold the mansion, it ended up in the hands of an airline pilot named Henry T. Morrison in 1971 for $56,000. Three years ago, he sold it to Peter Corsell, founder of the smart energy company Grid Point, for $5.7 million. He finally moved out last year.
Corsell had it fully modernized and extensively furnished — and now the house and Capone’s footsteps in Miami are making a comeback. And Deirdre feels ready to revisit a part of her life with which she has struggled.
The seven-room, five-bathroom mansion was listed for sale in July for almost $10 million, and it has become a hotspot. TV stations fly in, Capone experts stop by, moneyed Russians are bidding — all looking for the stories the house has to tell about the infamous mobster who turned bootlegging into a booming business during the Prohibition era.
“I thought that we would get all these hip-hoppers,” says Jorge Alonso, the real estate agent in charge for the Douglas Elliman firm. “But for now I have been mostly dealing with people that are history buffs. One of them [a potential buyer] even looked just like one of the Sopranos!”
Revisiting Palm Island from Naples, where she has been living for 14 years, is a personal journey for Deirdre.
She is the last surviving family member born with the name Capone and one of the few who actually knew “Scarface.” For years, she tried to leave everything about her family’s history behind, including the house in Miami.
Sharing a name with the man who once was America’s most-wanted criminal was a huge burden. Her father killed himself over a manuscript about his family when she was 10. Deirdre, who for years used the name Deirdre Gabriel, got fired from her first full-time job when her identity was discovered.
She was so embarrassed over being a Capone that she didn’t even tell her children who she really was. When she finally revealed her last name to them in 1974, their reaction caught her by surprise. “They said, ‘Cool, Mom,’ ” Deirdre recalls.
Deirdre was 7 when Capone died, and she saw him in Miami only a handful of times. But as she strolls around the property, it becomes clear that her rare visits shaped her. Fascinated by how the renovation architects have kept so many things original, Deirdre walks by the old windows, the black and gold Art Deco powder room, the bronze lamps.