Mob-linked River Forest home up for sale

The house at 935 Franklin Ave. in River Forest is for sale for $1.4 million. Rumors say the house had a secret tunnel to mobster Tony Accardo's basement next door. | Phot courtesy of MSK Realty LLCIan Fullerton

For Sun-Times Media

From the outside, the house at 935 Franklin Ave. looks like many others you might find in River Forest: A mid-century modern design with a two-car garage and a barbecue pit in the back.
Built in 1952, the three-story home, like many others in the neighborhood, has a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright in the fa├žade. The inside is lined with ornate, hand-milled wood paneling, a lasting touch from the residence’s original owner, a lumberyard owner by the name of Joseph Willens.
And then there’s the underground tunnel in the basement that runs next door, into the one-time home of mob boss Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo.
Well, there might be a tunnel.
“The current owners said they never found it,” said Sandi Pedersen, marketing manager for MSK Realty LLC, which put the house on the market last week.
For $1.4 million, the home’s buyer gets 7,000 square feet of living spaces — complete with cathedral ceilings and a balcony — that may or may not have served as a secret hideout for Accardo’s gang.
As the story goes, Willens was friends with Accardo, who rose in the ranks of the Chicago Outfit and greatly expanded the gang’s reach from a period the late 1940s until his death in 1992.
“The horseshoe-shaped table in the windowless basement of 935 Franklin,” a sales packet for the house says, “is where Tony Accardo and his men held their meetings.”
Willens, who passed away in 1984, was never formally linked to his neighbor’s criminal operations; any evidence to the contrary, said Pedersen, “is neighborhood hearsay” and the stuff of conspiracy theory websites.
Still, Pedersen said her company couldn’t help but tie the allure of owning a safe house of legend into their sales pitch. After all, River Forest seems to have come down with a touch of mafia-realty fever as of late.
Last month, the Chicago Tribune reported that reputed mob boss Joseph Andriacchi had put his 6,350-square-foot mansion in River Forest on the market for $2.15 million. Andriacchi, who allegedly held court over the Outfit’s Elmwood Park operation, had recently reached a settlement agreement over a foreclosure order on the property.
Pedersen said that her team was mulling over the possibility of marketing the mob angle at the Franklin Avenue property when the Andriacchi story came out.
MSK has done some historical recon in the past — the agency is currently shopping out a home on Harvey Avenue that was originally owned by Oak Park Art League founder Carl Kraftt. Prospective owners perusing the home can learn about the early 20th Century artist’s legacy from a plaque located on the property.
Details like that can sometimes add to an already attractive estate, said Pedersen.
As for the property at 935 Franklin Avenue, history may reveal itself yet.
“I think it gives them something to talk about,” she said. “It gives them the thrill of thinking they are going to tear down a wall and find something.”