Florida hideout of legendary gangster Ma Barker up for sale

Barbara Liston

* Suggested price at least $1 million

* Ma Barker was 1930s criminal and "public enemy No. 1"

* She was shot dead in a second-floor bedroom in 1935

OCKLAWAHA, Fla., Aug 20 (Reuters) - The lakefront Florida

retreat where FBI agents gunned down gangland legend Ma Barker

in 1935 is up for sale - bullet holes and all.

The two-story frame house in rural Ocklawaha, 62 miles (100

km) 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


The house is 2,016 square feet (187 sq meters) with four

bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathrooms. The sale includes 9.5 acres (3.8

hectares) shaded by stands of old oak trees and 1.5 acres (0.6

hectares) 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


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, www.mabarkerhouse.com,

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.

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 Oct. 5.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott)

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