by Kyle Garmes
A Morgan Park home with loose ties to infamous gangster Al Capone will host an open house on Aug. 8, as family members continue to market the home they lived in for about five decades.
The house, located at 11860 S. Bell Ave., has been home to the Waitkus Family since 1962, but since both of their parents have died, Susan, John and Teresa Waitkus are now selling it.
The open house will run from 10 a.m to 3 p.m., the family said, and will offer visitors a chance to tour a sprawling, 4,100-square-foot ranch home that once had a tunnel to the home next door.
The home is also known for the three deer statues in the front yard, which stand just outside an outdoor patio where family members still gather today.
“It was the best house I think a child could grow up in,” Teresa Waitkus said. “Because there’s so many things to do in this house because of the size of the rooms. And with the space that you have, everyone can still have their privacy but still be a family at the same time.”
The original owner, George “Babe” Tuffanelli, an alleged associate of Capone, built the home in 1947, the family said, and required precise attention to detail from all workers who constructed the home. Marble window sills line two large family rooms on the main floor, and there are four fireplaces, including one in the basement that has a “T” for Tuffanelli posted above it.
The Waitkus children’s father, Dr. John Waitkus, became friends with Tuffanelli when Tuffanelli’s granddaughter became ill and was treated by Dr. Waitkus, a surgeon who worked for Holy Cross and Loyola hospitals.
The Waitkus Family became friends with Tuffanelli, the Waitkus children said, because the Tuffanellis moved next door for a brief time after the Waitkuses moved in. The Tuffanellis later moved to Las Vegas for business reasons, the Waitkus Family said, but returned to the area to visit. At times, the family said, Babe Tuffanelli wanted to do business with Dr. Waitkus, but he turned down offers. The children said their father didn’t share what occurred in those conversations with them.
“What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you,” said Teresa Waitkus, who now lives in Las Vegas.
The basement features a 13-seat bar and a pool table, as well as a bedroom. In total, the home has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms.
The two large family rooms, which are separated by sliding doors, had starkly different themes when the Waitkus children were growing up, they said. One had a more casual feel, where children could play and eat. The other, which now features a baby grand piano, was more formal and used during parties. Often, said John Waitkus, he could go several months without stepping foot in that room.
The family hosted “party after party after party,” John Waitkus said, and that included for children.
“My parents had them, and we had them,” John Waitkus said. “Those were fun.”
A wall in the basement still features an outline to a tunnel that leads to the house next door, the family said, a sign of the mob activity that perhaps occurred there before they moved in. The main floor also several entries in and out of rooms, leaving Teresa Waitkus to wonder if Tuffanelli wanted to make sure he was never cornered in a room.
While the home is on 119th Street, a high-traffic thoroughfare, it faces east, and John Waitkus stressed that the new owners won’t be bombarded by noise.
“You will not hear a car out there on 119th Street in this house,” John Waitkus said. “I don’t care if you’re in the kitchen—you won’t.”
The house was appraised at $2.1 million, John Waitkus said, but the family is selling it for about $500,000.
John Waitkus has lived in the home while trying to sell it, and he recently sold his home in Indiana and plans to move to New York. He will still be back in the area, though, as he often visits Iroquois County for work.
The family is moving on from its infamous home, they said, but their ties with the Tuffanellis remain strong.
“We’re still friends with them today,” Teresa Waitkus said.