The House Where Gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond Was Killed Is for Sale

From a New York Times story by Julie Lasky headlined “The House in New York Where “Legs” Diamond Was Killed Is for Sale”:

Whoever murdered the Prohibition-era gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond was never prosecuted for the crime. But William Kennedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who owns the 1857 house in Albany, N.Y., where Mr. Diamond was whacked, is certain that the deed was done by a couple of policemen.

“Right there,” said Mr. Kennedy, 95, pointing to the spot in the bedroom where Mr. Diamond, after celebrating a not-guilty verdict in a criminal trial, was shot three times in the head in the early hours of Dec. 18, 1931.

The three-story brick townhouse at 67 Dove Street, which Mr. Kennedy has been using as a pied-à-terre and writing studio for almost 40 years, is now on the market for $499,000. Amanda Briody, of Coldwell Banker Prime Properties, is the listing agent. Mr. Kennedy gave a reporter a tour of the house.

Mr. Kennedy is associated with Albany the way Coney Island is associated with franks. Born to an Irish Catholic family that had lived there for more than five generations, he worked as a journalist for the Albany Times-Union before embarking on a career as a novelist. His only real separation was the few years he spent as the managing editor of an English-language newspaper in Puerto Rico.

In 1975, he published “Legs,” the first in a trio of novels known as the Albany Cycle. The meticulously researched account of the charismatic Mr. Diamond and his misdeeds was followed by “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game” and “Ironweed.” Mr. Kennedy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “Ironweed” in 1984, and the novel was made into a movie in 1987 starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

The Dove Street property, which is in the Center Square historic district, was a boardinghouse when Mr. Diamond moved in not long before his death, registering under a false name because he had been warned by local police officers to stay out of town. Albany, and particularly the political boss Daniel P. O’Connell, did not want any part of his mayhem — the booze-smuggling, the truck-hijacking, the shoot-’em-ups in bars. According to Mr. Kennedy, the police tipped off a couple of reporters who appeared at the crime scene and checked out Mr. Diamond’s corpse before investigators showed up. By that time, he said, the Times-Union had already set the type for the headline:


Mr. Kennedy bought the house in 1984 with the Hollywood producer Gene Kirkwood. The two men were working with the director Francis Ford Coppola on a film version of “Legs” that was to star Mickey Rourke and for which Mr. Kennedy has written a screenplay. Dropping by to pay homage to the property, they noticed a “for sale” sign in the window and decided to split the $80,000 price. They had intended to use the house for production offices and filming, but the movie never got off the ground. Mr. Kennedy eventually bought out Mr. Kirkwood’s share and is currently working on a wish-fulfilling novel in which “Legs” does find its way to the screen.

He has produced much work in the second-floor front bedroom where Legs bought the farm. His primary residence is in Averill Park, an area about 20 minutes east of Albany, where he and Dana Sosa, his wife of 66 years, raised their three children. But the couple frequently stayed at 67 Dove Street when business or recreation brought them to town. That changed when Ms. Sosa, a former dancer in Broadway shows and with the Joffrey Ballet, developed Alzheimer’s disease, Mr. Kennedy said; her world has grown smaller, and he is now ready to sell.

Dressed in a dapper check suit and a maroon tie, sitting in a curvaceous Victorian rocker in the home’s front parlor, Mr. Kennedy coordinated so well with the refreshed 19th-century interior that he looked carved in place. The building, which is about 1,700 square feet and has an adjacent one-car garage, has variegated hardwood floors, wavy glass windows, pocket doors, beamed lower-level ceilings and old-fashioned steam radiators.

In the closet of the notorious bedroom, a circle of the original rose-patterned wallpaper is preserved, in memory of a man that Albany still hasn’t forgotten.

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