Friday, November 11, 2005

Charlie Birger's 1920s Home Torn Down

The oft-overlooked refuge of 1920s gangster Charlie Birger bit the dust last week following a planned, but still violent, confrontation with a backhoe.

The homeplace for Birger's family stood just southeast across the highway from the Route 13 Huck's convenient store on the west side of Harrisburg.

Riding past it today I noticed the empty lot, but couldn't recall what exactly had stood there. However, thanks be given to Josie Brooks of The Book Emporium, for clueing me in to what I missed. She mentioned Brian DeNeal's article about the demolition.

HARRISBURG - The house of prohibition-era gangster Charlie Birger collapsed Wednesday under the claw of Roger Angelly's track hoe.

The house, across West Poplar Street from Hucks Convenience Store, is the future site of Central Hospital for Animals, now operating on Sloan Street.

Bill White, owner of nearby White's Florist, said the house had been in the White family since the 1940s and leaks began the steady destruction the track hoe completed.

White was too young to know the Birger family when they lived there from the early 1920s until April 19, 1928, the day of Birger's hanging at Benton.

Birger's death sentence was the penalty for Birger's orchestration of the murder of West City Mayor Joe Adams. The house was the site where Birger was arrested for the final time, 6 a.m. April 29, 1927, by Franklin County Sheriff Jim Pritchard and 11 deputies, according to Curtis G. Small's book, Mean Old Jail.

According to the story the only surprise came when the backhoe uncovered a cistern no one knew was there.

BTW, DeNeal is the son of Gary DeNeal, the biographer of Charlie Birger in his book, A Knight of Another Sort.

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