The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, casually known as The Mob Museum, is located in 300 E Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. You’ll find the museum just two blocks north of the famous Freemont Street. The museum is housed in what was once the Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse, a building dating back to 1933. The building is in itself listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Established in 2012, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement focuses both on the history of organized crime in the United States and on the actions and initiatives carried out by U.S. law enforcement in order to prevent and squelch organized crime.
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement is governed by the 300 Stewart Avenue Corporation (a non-profit board) in corporation with the City of Las Vegas.
Visiting the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement combines artifacts with photos, texts, interactive techniques, hands-on exhibits, and more to educate its visitors. There are a lot of mob-related photographs here with captions explaining their significance, including a collection named “Mob’s Greatest Hits” which shows photographs of the deceased victims of some of the most famous murders credited to the Mafia.
As you enter the museum, the tour starts on the third floor where bricks from of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre are on display. Against these bricks, seven people where lined up and shot during the Prohibition Era. They were once a part of a building at Dickens and Clark in Lincoln Park, Chicago. On Valentine’s Day 1929, six mob associates and a mechanic of a North Side Irish gang led by Bugs Moran was murdered in this building. The massacre is believed to have been carried out as a part of the struggle for power between Bugs Moran’s gang and the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone.
At the third floor of the museum, you can watch a film about the history of U.S. organized crime from the Prohibition Era and forward. There are also several other stations found throughout the museum where film footage related to organized crime can be viewed.
The centerpiece of the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement is a courtroom located on the second floor. In this courtroom, one of fourteen national Kefauver Committee hearings to expose organized crime was held in the early 1950’s.
Other exhibitions within the museum focuses on subjects such as wiretapping, Las Vegas’ first casinos, Al Capone, Eliot Ness, casino money skimming, bootlegging, drug sales, prostitution and procuring, Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, and the origins of the FBI. You get the opportunity to sit down in a replica of an electric chair, train in a police simulator, listen to real wire taps and hold a Tommy gun. The barber chair that Albert Anastasia was sitting in when he was murdered is on display, but visitors are not allowed to sit in it.
A wall located near the exit is adorned with images of actors who portrayed well-known organized crime characters in movies or TV-series.
In 2000, Las Vegas City purchased the former post office and federal courthouse building from the federal government for a symbolic $1. As part of the agreement, the city was contractually bound to restore the building to its original look and use if for a culture purpose.
The idea of an organized crime museum was proposed by former mob defense attorney Oscar Goodman, but his suggestion initially received a lot of push back from Italian-American groups. With the support of the FBI, the project began to take shape, and Ellen Knowlton (who was once the FBI head agent in Las Vegas) joined as president of the museum’s board.
Another important force behind the creation of the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement was Dennis Barrie, one of the co-creators of the International Spy Museum in Washington DC and of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement received funding from federal, state and local sources. Roughly $26 million was used to restore the building, and roughly the same amount to put the exhibitions together.
As an homage to the Valentine’s Day Massacre, the museum was opened to the public for the very first time on Valentine’s Day 2012.