The Mounds Club

The story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer read like a script from one of Bruce Willis' Die Hard movies. In the early morning hours of September 29, 1947, a dozen masked commandos armed with submachine guns and referring to each other by numbers attacked the Mounds Club, one of the Cleveland area's most glamorous night clubs. They penetrated the electrified fence surrounding the Club, overwhelmed the Club's security forces and then robbed 300 club patrons of an estimated $450,000 in jewelry and cash. While both the local Mayfield Mob and the infamous Purple Gang from Detroit were suspected of the armed robbery, no one was ever charged and the crime remains unsolved to this day.

The Mounds Club was built in 1930 by Thomas "Black Jack" McGinty, a second generation Irish-American who was then known as Cleveland's biggest sports and gambling promoter. He was also known to be an associate of the Cleveland Gang, an organized crime group that controlled gambling and other illegal enterprises in Cleveland in the decades of the1930s and 1940s. Several members of the Cleveland Gang, including Moe Dalitz and Morris Kleinman, were reputed to be silent owners of the Mounds Club.

Located on Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills, just across the Lake County line at the site of present day La-Vera Party Center, the Mounds Club was conveniently placed just out of the reach of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County law enforcement officials. The Mounds Club did indeed offer its patrons opportunities to gamble and drink illegal liquor. It also, however, featured some of the best entertainment in the Cleveland area in that era. Well-known singers like Sophie Tucker, Helen Morgan and Lena Horne, and comedians like Joe E. Lewis, performed there. When the Club was attacked by masked robbers in 1947, comedian Peter Lind Hayes and his wife, singer Mary Healy, were actually on stage performing. The careers of a number of Hollywood singers and actresses began with stints at the Mounds Club.

In the years 1930-1948, the Mounds Club had been the target of a number of raids by Lake County and State of Ohio law enforcement officials. The Club nevertheless had always managed to stay in business and one step ahead of the law until Frank Lausche was elected to his second term as Ohio's Governor in 1948. In early 1949, Governor Lausche vowed to close the Mounds Club which he claimed had for too long flouted Ohio's gambling and liquor laws.

In July 1949, Governor Lausche's state liquor law enforcement officials did just that, obtaining a court order to close down and padlock the Mounds Club. While owner Thomas "Black Jack" McGinty appealed the order closing his club, he clearly saw the writing on the wall. He and his Cleveland Gang associates sold their interests in the Mounds Club in 1950, taking their money out of Ohio and investing it in a new and what they believed would be safer and even more lucrative enterprise--the new Desert Inn in Las Vegas, Nevada.