Explore Wisconsin's Gangster Hideouts
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Wisconsin wise guys
Prohibition-era Chicago gangsters found cover--and comforts--in the dense Wisconsin woods. Today, those hideouts are back in the spotlight, thanks to Johnny Depp's 2009 film Public Enemies.
In the movie, Depp stars as real-life Chicago bank robber John Dillinger, who, like Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson and Bugs Moran, often retreated to Wisconsin. These big-time criminals took advantage of the rustic surroundings to store liquor and set up gambling and prostitution operations--but the cops were never far behind!
Some of Wisconsin's gangster hideouts and Public Enemies filming locations are on the following slides; check with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for a complete list.
Pictured: Downtown Columbus, Wisconsin, is one of the settings for Johnny Depp's film Public Enemies.
Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters
The charismatic Dillinger famously escaped from the FBI at Little Bohemia Lodge, leaving behind his suitcase, clothes and even Ex-Lax tablets, all now on display (left). The lodge, still peppered with bullet holes from the 1934 shoot-out, serves "John Dillinger's Signature Steak." About 90 miles north of Wausau.
Dillman's Bay Resort in Lac du Flambeau
Baby Face Nelson sought refuge in Cabin 5 (left) at Dillman's Bay Resort, about 15 miles south of Manitowish, following the FBI raid at Little Bohemia Lodge. Today visitors seek refuge of another sort; the two-bedroom cabin is part of a lakeside resort and can be rented for the night or the week.
Norwood Pines Supper Club in Minocqua
Nearly hidden in a cluster of red pines, Norwood Pines Supper Club (left) was a favorite for gangsters. It still operates as a restaurant in Minocqua, about 15 miles southeast of Lac du Flambeau.
EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh
A 1929 Ford Tri-Motor aircraft (left) is featured in Public Enemies as the aircraft that the FBI used to transport Dillinger to Chicago from Arizona. The plane is part of the EAA Airventure Museum's permanent collection. Also, EAA's Pioneer Field was the filming location for an airport scene in Public Enemies.
Dillinger robberies in Oshkosh
Oshkosh re-created two famous Dillinger robberies for Public Enemies. The hold-up of Racine's American Bank and Trust Company was filmed at Oshkosh's Masonic Temple, while a robbery at the Security National Bank and Trust in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was filmed at an Oshkosh bank/office building at 404 Main St. (left).
Silver Street in Hurley
The Silver Street district in Hurley, about 30 miles north of Manitowish, was popular among "vacationing" gangsters. It remains full of lively nightclubs.
Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison
The State Capitol building (left) transformed into FBI headquarters during filming of Public Enemies.
The faux headquarters has packed up, but you can still take a free one-hour tour that highlights the elegant art, architecture and furnishings of this century-old granite building.
Barker Lake Lodge and Golf Course in Hayward
Chicago gang leader and speakeasy operator "Polack Joe" Saltis owned a 238-acre estate on Barker Lake in Sawyer County (about 100 miles north of Eau Claire), not far from Al Capone's estate. Today visitors can stay in the historic lodge and play golf at the Barker Lake Golf Course, a classic nine-hole layout that Saltis built in the 1920s.
More gangster hideouts and movie locations
Lake Geneva, WI Bugs Moran and his wife vacationed at the Watersedge, now a B&B. Guests enter the Bugs Moran Suite (left), once a cash-counting room, through a secret passage. About 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee.
Beaver Dam, WI Dillinger's gang was captured when Tucson, Arizona's, Hotel Congress caught fire. For the movie Public Enemies, Beaver Dam's Hotel Rogers, now an apartment building, played the part. About 65 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee The Milwaukee County Historical Society building was once the Second Ward Savings Bank. One of its six vaults is on the first floor and appears in the movie.
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® July/August 2009.)