For three months near the end of Prohibition, the infamous Ma Barker and members of her crime gang lived in a nondescript duplex in West St. Paul. The house, built in 1927 at 1031 S. Robert St., is a stop on the St. Paul Gangster Tour. Now it can be yours, for $147,000.
Barker’s gang from Oklahoma was wanted for killing a sheriff in Missouri when they came to St. Paul, a well-known haven for gangsters. The group claimed to be musicians and carried violin cases to support the ruse, according to “John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920-1935” by Paul Maccabee.
The household included Ma Barker (born Arizona Clark and later known as Kate), her son Fred Barker, her boyfriend, Alfred Dunlop, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, a career criminal from Topeka, Kan., who met Fred behind bars at Kansas State Penitentiary where Fred was serving time for a bank burglary.
Ma was known in the neighborhood as Mrs. Anderson and was often seen walking her bulldog down Robert Street, according to Maccabee’s book.
The group rented the duplex from Feb. 1, 1932, to April 25, 1932, and was living there when they planned and executed the robbery of Minneapolis’ Northwestern National Bank and Trust on March 29. The gang fled the house less than a month later, after being tipped off to a pending police raid.
Growing up in the neighborhood, the home’s current owner, Jeff Heroff, knew of the building’s notorious history.
“As a kid, everybody was fascinated with it,” he recalled of the house. “I heard all kinds of stories. The rumor was they might have held someone hostage there.”
After the house went into foreclosure, Heroff bought it, in 2006, hoping to turn it into a mobster museum. “I wanted to do something historically,” he said. “But it never worked out.”
So Heroff recently put the house on the market. “I hope that whoever buys it uses that aspect,” he said of its colorful history.
The house is zoned for mixed use (half residential and half commercial), so whoever buys it will have to operate some kind of business out of the first floor and can live in or rent out the second floor as an apartment.
The house has 1,694 finished square feet, including three bedrooms up, with a kitchen and a bath, and four rooms on the main level, including another kitchen and bath. There’s space for parking in back.
Sarah Rosen of Keller Williams Integrity Realty has the listing, 651-276-7244, email@example.com.