At the turn of the 20th Century, the sisters Ada and Minna Everleigh ran one of the most upscale brothels in Chicago: the Everleigh Club. The house, decorated with perfumed fountains, mirrored ceilings and a $15,000 gold-leafed piano in the Music Room, stood at 2131-2133 South Dearborn Street, not far from where Whirl and I now live. Custom House Row and the Levee District– as our neighborhoods were known at the time– were lousy with brothels and gambling halls, drifters, grifters and tramps.

Karen Abbott’s first book, Sin in the Second City, tells the story of “probably the most famous whorehouse in America’s history.” The comparisons to Erik Larson and Devil in the White City are unavoidable: Abbott writes in a similar, literary non-fiction style. She writes about a similar time and place. Many names are repeated in both works. I do not see these as criticisms.

The Chicago Tribune writes in its review:

At the heart of Abbott’s story beats the protracted war between the city’s purveyors of sin and its hawkers of salvation, between the city’s on-the-take pols, cops and brothelkeepers, and its social reformers, crusaders and Bible-thumpers.

So on this day when five colorful men have been convicted on all counts in the landmark Family Secrets mob-conspiracy trial, I return to the seedy Chicago of yesteryear to visit with my friends Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin. Hope to see you at the Club.

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