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But the couple's ambition outpaced their reputation. Heather Paxton, senior research editor at the local society journal The Independent, says Henderson and his wife never made it into the pages of that publication, even after they moved into their showy house. "I think Dr. Henderson's area of practice might have made them difficult to be accepted into real society," she says.
The smart set further shunned Henderson after his indictment by a federal grand jury in 1913. In addition to his successful private practice, Henderson had been operating a mail-order business promoting his ability to "cure certain diseases." The side venture probably didn't fix anyone's broken plumbing, but it was a moneymaker. The government took notice and charged the doctor with fraud.
Unwanted federal attention and public disfavor might have been lively topics of conversation between Henderson and his most notorious client. But did Al Capone really, as the story goes, first learn in Kansas City that he had syphilis?
This is where a lot of famous patients came to be treated," says William Poole, the current owner and resident of 1016 Paseo. As talk turns to Scarface, KC's mobbed-up past, and murder, Poole stands barefoot in the house's sunny front parlor, puffing on a cigarette.
This was Johnny Howard's apartment in the 1970s, and it remains one of the prettiest rooms in the house. The original plaster cornices have recently been repainted, and the room's showiest feature, an elaborate fireplace mantel that's covered in iridescent porcelain tiles imported from Holland in 1899, is in remarkable condition.
It's unlikely that Henderson ever saw a patient in this room. City directories report that his practice was always in downtown office buildings. But the legend persists that Capone was diagnosed here with the syphilis that killed him in 1947.
The gangster was officially diagnosed with the disease in an Atlanta penitentiary in 1932, almost a decade after Henderson's death. Jonathan Eig, author of the 2010 book Get Capone, says, "Capone almost certainly knew he had the symptoms of syphilis before he was diagnosed in prison. He didn't know it had gone into the tertiary stage. But, yes, there are reports that he was treated by other doctors for the symptoms of the disease."
He goes on: "The question is, why would he have a doctor in Kansas City? There are no reports that he was treated there, although I suppose he could have seen Dr. Henderson."
Capone stars in other stories connected to 1016 Paseo — using this address as a safe house to hide from cops, and his gang disposing of bodies in the crawl space.
Eig dismisses the rest of the rumors. "It's very unlikely that the house on Paseo was ever a safe house for Capone," he says. "For one thing, Al Capone was not Bonnie and Clyde. When he traveled to Kansas City, he wasn't on the lam. He didn't need to hide out. He probably checked into the best hotel in town."
And the bodies?
"They didn't hide bodies," Eig says, chuckling. "They dumped them in the river or along a railroad track. So many stories have gotten conflated and inflated over the years."
For Poole, who has owned the property since 2006, the stories — conflated, inflated and even occasionally true — are part of 1016 Paseo's allure. "There's no way of knowing what really happened in this house," he says. "I think all the stories about things that happened in here are amusing and interesting. Are they true? Probably not."