A Denver man renovating his 1891 Victorian home reportedly discovered a very dangerous past behind its walls. He said that he found rows of matches intertwined with wires buried behind the plaster, so that it would be easy to burn the house down.
But who would do such a thing? Well, how about Denver's most notorious mob family?
Denver TV station KMGH reported that homeowner Matt Feeney learned that the Smaldone crime family, famous for operating an underground gambling network throughout the mid-1900s, once owned his home. Feeney told the station that during the home's renovation he also discovered a hidden door leading to a small chamber and other artifacts suggesting the home's connection with the Smaldone family.
Feeney first suspected that something was awry when he went into the house's walls.
"So, as we're knocking out the walls, hitting right here, we're smelling matches, as if they're constantly being lit," Feeney told KMGH. He noticed groups of matches connected to a "fuse" that was wired throughout the walls and connected to canvas packets (pictured at left).
He also found a bottle of what appears to be bootleg liquor, which he referred to as "poison."
Feeney continued to turn up evidence in the home of a hidden past when he noticed a door, concealed by stucco, which led to a chamber.
But rather than being upset with the home's connection to an infamous family, Feeney is excited about its tie to local history. "It's a lot of fun trying to put myself in their shoes as the owner of the home now, living here just like they did," he said.
Dick Kreck, author of "Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family," told KMGH that the Smaldones "were sort of B-level gangsters, but I always tell people today we still love them because they were our gangsters."
Eugene Smaldone, a descendant, told KMGH that he remembers playing as a child at the house now owned by Feeney.
"My dad was a very interesting man. He was a smart man," Smaldone said. "The Sopranos? Nothing like them. Nothing at all. They [the Smaldones] were good businessmen. It's just that their business was illegal at the time."
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