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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Mural Of Notorious Bank Robber John Dillinger Unveiled On 86th Anniversary Of His Death

The mural, painted by local artist Gabriel Moskolis, features an iconic portrait of John Dillinger in the alley where he was gunned down by federal agents in 1934.

Artist Gabriel Moskolis stands in front of his mural of notorious bank robber John Dillinger.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — A new mural of famed bank robber John Dillinger was unveiled in the Lincoln Park alley where he was killed to mark the 86th anniversary of the outlaw’s death.

The mural, painted by local artist Gabriel Moskolis, features an iconic portrait of Dillinger on the Northwest-facing wall of Takito Street, a Mexican restaurant at 2423 N. Lincoln Ave.

Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents in that alley on July 22, 1934, after seeing the Clark Gable movie “Manhattan Melodrama” at the Biograph Theater just up the street, according to the FBI.

Gabriel Moskolis adds final touches to his mural of John Dillinger on Tuesday. | Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

“Dillinger was a legend when it comes to Chicago and one of the biggest gangsters of all time,” Moskolis said while finishing up the mural Tuesday evening. “A lot of people don’t realize this is the exact spot he died, so I wanted to do a mural to help share that story.”

Chicago Crime Tours, who sponsored the mural with Takito Street, stops at the alley while educating tourists on Dillinger’s history.

Dillinger was active during the Great Depression era and named “Public Enemy No. 1” by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Dillinger and his gang were responsible for killing 10 men, wounding seven others, robbing banks and staging three jail breaks, according to the FBI.

Dillinger came to Chicago after escaping from jail in Crown Point, Indiana, in 1934 and was laying low in the Lincoln Park area with his girlfriend before his death.

Anna Sage, a Romanian immigrant who ran a brothel in Gary, Indiana, had sold Dillinger’s whereabouts to the FBI in exchange for them helping her halt her deportation.

While Dillinger was in the Biograph Theater with his girlfriend and Sage, federal agents camped outside to ambush him when they left, according to the FBI. Once leaving, Dillinger quickly realized he was being attacked and ran south toward the alley before he was shot dead.

Moskolis said he had always known Dillinger’s history in Lincoln Park and wanted to create the mural once he realized the exact location where the mobster died.

Moskolis said passing neighbors have stopped by all week to share bits of neighborhood’s folklore.

Ken Ferguson, a bartender and manager of Lincoln Station in Lincoln Park. | Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

“People told me he was such an icon that after he was shot, guys were taking off their handkerchiefs and dipping it in his blood, and ladies dipped their dresses in his blood,” Moskolis said. “People were ripping buttons of his shirt just to have a piece of history.”

Ken Ferguson, a bartender and manager at Lincoln Station, which is across the street from the Biograph Theater, said people come to the bar every year to mark the anniversary of Dillinger’s death.

“They come here because it’s apparently where the police were hiding out while waiting for Dillinger to come out of the theater,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the tradition, hosted by the John Dillinger Died For You Society, was canceled this year due to the pandemic.

But Moskolis invited people to come see the mural Wednesday evening and honor Dillinger’s death while following social-distancing guidelines.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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