On first glance, the house at 719 South Decator Street, in the Elwyn Heights section of the city, doesn’t seem to be all that remarkable. It’s just another in a string of large brick twin houses that populate the neighborhood. However, the mere mention of the address is apt to flip a switch in those with a longish memory of the seedier aspects of the City’s history. In 1979, organized crime boss Lorento “Lorry Boy” Scafia was slain on its marble steps while enjoying a glass of lemonade on a hot August evening. The ensuing mob war raged into the next decade, resulting in several more slayings and a couple of car bombings, finally calming down in late 1980.
After the August 28 murder of “Lorry Boy,” Mrs. Scafia and their three children moved out of the house and the city, finally settling in Orlando, Florida. They retained ownership of the house, which was unoccupied for thirty years, except for a distant cousin who lived there briefly while attending Watson University in the mid-90s. When Mrs. Scafia passed away last June, the children decided it was finally time to sell the house.
All in all, the slaying and its aftermath is one of the darker, more violent episodes of our late 20th Century history and, while most choose to forget it, many regard it with a morbid fascination. Daniel Winslow is banking on the latter. He bought the house at 719 South Decator when it went on the market last year and is closing on its twin at 721 in the next week or so. Next week, he’ll present the Planning Commission with a plan to turn 719 into a sort-of museum of the City’s organized crime history, while renovating 721 into his home. Winslow, 43, who up until last year was an investment banker living in New York City, grew up three blocks away and has been “fascinated” with the local mob since that fateful day.
Many neighbors are already planning to protest the plan, citing the fact that most of the city’s organized crime activity took place in the Furleigh Park area farther west. Scafia had settled here only because he’d wanted his kids to attend nearby St. Cecilia’s School. Nearby residents say it took them years to recover from the bad publicity and that having a “morbid shrine to those animals” won’t do them any favors. Also, parking is cited as an issue.
Winslow, however, is optimistic. He’s been doing the work on 719 himself and on a recent tour, excitedly pointed out six bullet holes found under a sloppy plaster job in the living room, as well as a cache of rusty gun parts found behind some paneling in the semi-finished basement.
The Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, at 11:30 a.m. in room 19-D, City Hall Annex.
– RJ White