Diagnosed with syphilis while serving an 11-year prison term on Alcatraz for income tax evasion, gangster Al Capone was later sent to the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., where he remained until being paroled on Nov. 16, 1939.
Capone immediately headed to Baltimore for medical treatment. Because of his notoriety, he was denied entry to Johns Hopkins Hospital and was sent to Union Memorial Hospital, where many Hopkins physicians had privileges.
After leaving the hospital in 1940, Capone, accompanied by two bodyguards, secretly moved into the home of Maryland State Police Sgt. Menasha E. Katz at Pimlico Road and Oswego Avenue, in Mount Washington, where he spent several months recuperating.
“Al Capone talked little. His bodyguards did the talking and paid the bills. We didn’t shake hands,” Katz, who later became a state police captain, told The Sunday Sun Magazine in a 1975 interview.
Capone and his entourage departed Katz’s home for his Miami villa on March 20, 1940. In gratitude for his hospitality, he sent Katz two expensive silk shirts.
Capone presented Union Memorial with two weeping cherry trees. One was removed in the 1950s when the building was expanded; the other is located at the 33rd Street entrance and still blooms every April.
“Capone spent several weeks on our fifth floor, and after his release, gave us the cherry trees,” said Debra Schindler, the Union Memorial spokeswoman.
"The young weeping cheery trees that are planted around our campus are descendants of that original gift, grown from an arborist’s clippings."
A 2010 blizzard damaged one of the trees, which split in two, sending a heavy limb to the ground.
“We had a woodworker make several items from the wood,” said Schindler.