The saga of an Ocklawaha house where Arizona “Ma” Barker and her son Fred were killed during a historic shootout with the FBI in the 1930s took an interesting twist after the property was sold recently.
Last week, the property where the Bradford House sits was sold to Kirk Boone as trustee for $750,000. The sale did not include the house where the famous gun battle occurred on the morning of Jan. 15, 1935. A dozen FBI agents surrounded the home and soon gunfire erupted. About four hours later, the Barkers were dead and the longest shootout in FBI history was immortalized.
“We have the temporary right to store the house on the property. We have several options for the house,” said Carson Good, who is a member of the family that owns the house.
The most dramatic option is an offer from an Orlando businessman to move the house to tourist-centric International Drive and make it an attraction.
“It was a lot (of money),” Good said of the offer, but added the family would rather have the house become a historic landmark of not only the 1930s gun battle but of Ocklawaha history.
“We don’t want it to become part of a horror show,” Good said. “The home’s been in the family since 1930. We’ve had weddings and funerals there. We’re very attached to it.”
Good said another alternative is to dismantle the house and move it to one of the family’s farms in either Mount Dora or Tennessee.
But their hope is that Marion County will take the house and move it just 800 feet away from where it now stands.
“If done right, we’d love the idea of Marion County taking it,” Good said.
Marion County Tax Collector George Albright III has worked for years to get the home into public hands. Last year, he was part of an effort to get $250,000 allotted by the state for purchase of the property. Gov. Rick Scott, however, vetoed the provision.
“We’re exploring the possibility of moving the house 800 feet to the north end of the Lake Weir Chamber of Commerce property,” Albright said. “It would then be donated to the county. The county would own it permanently.”
He said the house is a time capsule of the 1930s still containing most of the original furniture and decor that was present during the shootout.
“I think there is a will to save the house, to save the history of this area. We’re not honoring gangsters, we’re honoring the first 12 FBI agents to sign up for the agency in the 1930s,” he said.
Good said the home would include all the furnishings, a wealth of historic photos and a 1930s General Electric refrigerator that continues to operate.
“I understand the fascination with the shootout, but there’s a lot more history there than what happened on Jan. 16, 1935, because we had some famous bad renters,” Good said.
Lake Weir was a popular resort destination in the early 20th century, drawing visitors from around the country.
“(We have) photographs going back to the early 1900s with members of the MacKay family and other longtime area families fishing in suits and in long dresses; driving up in antique cars and antique boats. There are love letters from around 1910 or 1920 that say things like, ‘We’re here at the lake, honey. I hope we can get married next year,’” Good said. “We’d love to see the house preserved as part of the history of Ocklawaha.”
Albright said he is seeking bids for the cost of moving the house and along with the chamber hopes to formulate a proposal to present to the county in the coming months.
If the house becomes public property, Albright said, one of the first things they would do is to seek state and federal historic designations. That would allow for highway signs to attract visitors and would also make public funds available for the house.
Albright, who grew up living next door to the house, hopes it will finally be open to the public in the near future. The public was allowed into the house only once in 1985 for the 50th anniversary of the shootout.
Plans for the lakefront property were not immediately available. Boone was traveling and not available for comment. He is part of Ocala Development which specializes in the development of large acreage tracts, residential subdivisions, mini-farms and commercial real estate, according to its website.