Edgar Hoover, Jazz-Era Gangsters, and a Sleepy Resort Town
Known today as the Bradford / Barker house, this home was originally located on property owned by Carson Bradford, who bought the real estate in Ocklawaha in 1892. His son, living in Miami, built the house in 1930. It was a two story Florida cracker style home with three bedrooms and two baths with a total of 2,100 square feet.
The home was quiet, nestled back from the street with a view of Lake Weir, the fifth largest lake in Florida. The Bradford’s built the home as a weekend and summer retreat from Miami.
Carson Bradford had never rented his house on Lake Weir when in late 1934, he got a surprisingly generous offer from a representative of a Mrs. T.C. “Kate” Blackburn, describing her as “a sweet little old lady” was looking for an out of the way cottage to spend some quality time with her sons. They needed a place to rest and re-coup away from the cold Northern winter.
Bradford said the house wasn’t for rent. Not willing to accept no for an answer, the rent offer went up with an offer to pay cash in advance for the entire season. “It is the only time the house was ever rented,” says Carson Good, Bradford’s great grandson.
Two months later, the Bradford house was riddled with bullets and is the scene of the longest FBI shoot-out in history. Only when the shooting was over, did Bradford learn the true identity of his tenants. He had inadvertently rented to the notorious gangster Ma Barker and her son Fred.
Edgar Hoover had designated them as Public Enemy #1 after the FBI shot and killed John Dillinger, followed by Al Capone, and Pretty Boy Floyd. The Karpis and Barker gang knew Hoover was coming for them next, hence the hide-out overlooking Lake Weir.
The home was moved across the lake in October 2016. The property remains and is now currently available for sale. Ocklawaha is once again a quiet sleepy town. The property with its beautiful lake view and access is ready for a new story to be written.