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Del Castle demolition permit approved

The city of Ocean Springs has approved a permit to destroy a house once rumored to have been a hideout for Chicago gangster Al Capone.

Mayor Connie Moran, who had twice vetoed decisions by aldermen that would have allowed Bruce Legate to destroy Del Castle, withdrew her latest veto in a special meeting Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t come to some agreement to save the home, but it appears that Mr. Legate is within his legal rights to (demolish),” Moran said.

Legate said Del Castle, built in 1927, costs too much to repair or maintain.

While some local residents say they have heard stories that Capone used the home as one of his hideaways, the rumor has never proven to be true, Legate said.

The city’s historic preservation committee had asked aldermen to save the structure because of its unique architecture.

Two letters that Legate’s father wrote the city before Hurricane Katrina added a controversial twist to the debate.

In that correspondence, Brooks Legate asked city officials to deny his son permission to destroy Del Castle. Bruce Legate has said his father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was not coherent at the time he wrote the letters.

City attorney John Edwards has told Moran and aldermen several times they cannot legally deny Legate a demolition permit.

Moran had said she wanted to look for grant money to save the house or a tenant who would lease it. Legate, however, has said he is not interested in making any deals.

Grants to save Del Castle did not pan out, Moran said.

“There are some grants available, but probably not until next spring,” Moran said. “And without someone coming forward right now to engage in a lease agreement, I’m afraid we would not be able to do it in a timely manner that Mr. Legate is pressing for.”

“We’re glad that it’s done,” Legate’s attorney, Robert O’Dell, said after the meeting. “He can move on with the demolition at this point.”

When asked when he plans to destroy Del Castle, Legate said, “As soon as possible.”