Proposal to turn mobster’s house into landmark gets whacked


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A historical landmark advisory board received an offer it could refuse, saying Thursday it won’t support a proposal asking that the home of a former mob boss receive landmark status.

Angelo Bruno, who was known as the “Gentle Don” when he ran the city’s Italian mob in the 1960s and 1970s, was gunned down outside the house in 1980.

The main argument for declaring it a city landmark was that federal investigations into his affairs shaped the way organized crime was tracked and prosecuted.

But the advisory board said that argument was weak and didn’t have a direct tie-in to Philadelphia.

The committee’s recommendation now goes to the city’s Historical Commission, which will have the final say.

Preservationist Celeste Morello, who nominated Bruno’s South Philadelphia row home for the designation, told the committee that Bruno was also a significant historic figure. Bruno’s FBI file is part of the John F. Kennedy assassination record, she said, and includes transcripts of conversations in which Bruno says he wanted the president killed.

“That’s big. That is very significant,” Morello said. “I don’t know of anyone else in Philadelphia who has had their FBI file become a part of such a critical moment in 20th century history or United States history.”

When Morello finished speaking, Jean Bruno, the late mob boss’s 74-year-old daughter who still lives in the family home, spoke from her seat in the audience. She said she’d overheard her father argue against Kennedy’s assassination.

Jean Bruno, who has been trying to sell her family home for two years, said she would consider it an honor if the property was designated as historic. During the meeting, she wondered aloud if a historic designation would help with bills.

“Do I get any tax breaks? I just thought about it,” she asked.

After the committee voted 4-0 to not recommend the home for historic designation, Morello asked if she should resubmit the application with stronger arguments or a different angle.

Committee member Jeffrey Cohen, a Bryn Mawr College professor of architectural history, said that decision was up to her, but noted, “I don’t think you see a lot of encouragement here.”

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