August 21, 2012 / 1:40 PM / 7 years ago

Florida hideout of legendary gangster Ma Barker up for sale

OCKLAWAHA, Florida (Reuters) - The lakefront Florida retreat where FBI agents gunned down gangland legend Ma Barker in 1935 is up for sale - bullet holes and all.

Stirling Sotherby's real estate advisor Mark Arnold stands in the second floor of the home that Kate "Ma" Barker was shot dead by the FBI in 1935 in Ocklawaha, Florida August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Scott Audette

The two-story frame house in rural Ocklawaha, 62 miles northwest of Orlando, is the site of one of the most celebrated raids in FBI history and the suggested starting price on bids for it is $1 million.

There have been attempts to patch up and plaster over the bullet holes but Mark Arnold, an agent with Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty, almost makes them sound like part of the attraction of the place.

“It’s like walking into a time capsule in 1935. The fact that it has this extra history is a really interesting cachet,” Arnold said.

He was referring to how Kate “Ma” Barker, who was branded Public Enemy No. 1 by the federal government for a rash of murders, kidnapping and robberies committed in the early 1930s, was killed in the house along with one of her sons in a fusillade from federal agents.

Photos released at the time, believed by some to have been staged, show Barker lying dead in a second-floor bedroom clutching a machine gun.

But the Barker story is the stuff of gangster legend and crime buffs may put a premium on a prime piece of criminal memorabilia.

The house is 2,016 square feet (187 sq meters) with four bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathrooms. The sale includes 9.5 acres shaded by stands of old oak trees and 1.5 acres of sandy beach on Lake Weir.

Books and movies including the 1970 film “Bloody Mama” starring Shelly Winters focus on what some see as the mythical Ma Barker. But the real Barker may have had little to do with Hollywood images and the criminal exploits of her four sons.


The four men were members of the ruthless Barker-Karpis gang that rampaged across the South and Midwest in the 1920s and early 1930s. But there has been little evidence to support claims that Barker herself was some sort of stone-cold criminal mastermind.

Arnold said the Ocklawaha house was built as a summer vacation home on Lake Weir in 1930 by Carson Bradford, a wealthy Miami furniture manufacturer and partner in a jai alai concern.

A realtor working for Bradford rented the home to a woman flashing a lot of cash who introduced herself as Kate Blackburn and her husband. The renters turned out to be Ma Barker and her fugitive son Fred.

According to the property website,, more than 2,000 rounds were fired over four hours in what was the longest and fiercest shootout in FBI history.

Upstairs and downstairs walls are pockmarked with indentations and raised plaster patches where bullets hit, and at least one through-and-through bullet hole remains unrepaired on the staircase. A still-serviceable wooden bedroom chair shows gouges from flying bullets.

Slideshow (8 Images)

In the ensuing years, four generations of Bradfords continued to use the house as a summer getaway, Arnold said. The only updates made to the house were in the kitchen. Generations of Bradford children idled away summers at the Ocklawaha house digging around the property in an unsuccessful hunt for the gang’s stash of stolen money, Arnold said.

“What is remarkable is this family has preserved all of this through four generations and it’s still there and it’s in good shape,” Arnold said. “It just has a few bullet holes.”

He said potential buyers have expressed interest in a variety of uses for the property including a bed-and-breakfast resort. Offers will be accepted through October 5.

Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott

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