Sweetums and I took a Sunday drive to Monteagle, Tennessee, and we were surprised to find there was an Al Capone connection.
According to legend, Capone either financed or built the 1930 home called RyeMabee, also known as Castlewood, which now houses High Point restaurant. The three-story Tudor-revival house was impressive; it is built of stone, as are many buildings in this mountain town. It was closed when we were there but the restaurant’s website says, “The 1929 mansion with original hardwood flooring and authentic light fixtures, presumably financed by Al Capone, was put on the National Register of Historic Places in December of 1997.”
I would love to see the interior. Although much of the history of the house is legend, the home’s application for the National Register says Capone definitely had a relationship with the Mabee family.
“Numerous recent interviews with persons living in Monteagle in the period of 1925-1931 indicate that Al Capone frequented the original 1875 Mabee home when it was inhabited by Irene Mabee Gibson after her mother’s death in 1925. Interviews have revealed that Al Capone came through Monteagle on a regular basis when he was traveling between Chicago and his Florida estate in Miami.”
Some say Irene Mabee was Capone’s mistress, others say her brother Carl Mabbe was Capone’s friend. Either relationship would have been surprising to locals because the Mabee family had been strong supporters of temperance. In addition, the area is filled with church schools and compounds, including the historic Sunday School Assembly, the DuBose Memorial Church Training School (now a conference center) and nearby Sewanee, the University of the South.
So how did the Mabees get involved with one of the most famous bootleggers of all time? It is still a mystery. The National Register application says, “Somehow, in a period of thirty years, the Mabee family expanded its social image from being a founding and supporting family of a community based on the temperance and Chautauqua movements, to include at least a loose association with the most notorious murderer, gangster, racketeer and bootlegger in the nation’s history.”
The first Mabee home was torn down and RyeMabee was built in its place in 1930. The restaurant website tells more of the legend, “The three-story compound once had escape hatches on the roof and underground tunnels in the basement used by Capone for the transferring of liquor in the twenties and early thirties. Local legend reveals tales of Capone and John Dillinger lounging outside on the mountain stone patio having drinks and playing numerous hands of cards.”
The National Register further describes the interior of the home: “The room sizes and proportions provide for a generous but not lavish interior. However, the first floor interior room arrangement and room to room associations provide for balanced daylighting and a openness or ‘visual flow’ between rooms through elliptical arches or glazed double French doors. All rooms on the first floor are visually connected to the living room with the exception of the kitchen. The major focal points of the spacious interior are the two massive chimney breasts detailed with native Tennessee rock crystals and sandstone slab mantels.”