Joplin Missouri has become known for the devastating tornado that struck there in May of 2011. But the town has a lesser known claim to fame connected to the greatest outlaw couple in American history.
Tucked on a quiet street in Joplin, is the 2-story stone apartment house that was once occupied by the infamous crime duo Bonnie & Clyde.
In April of 1933, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker rented out the upper level apartment of the house on Oak Ridge Drive.
They were joined by friend William Daniel Jones and Clyde’s older brother Buck Barrow and his wife Blanche.
The “Barrow Gang” didn’t stay long, however. They rented the apartment on April 1st but fled in a bloody shootout with police only 13 days later when they were discovered.
Apparently, neighbors became suspicious by the stealthy, secretive group with out-of-state license plates on their cars and notified the police. Local authorities organized a raid on the apartment. The ambush quickly turned into an all-out machine-gun shootout that resulted in the death of two law enforcement officers and the Barrow gang narrowly escaping.
Since Bonnie and Clyde had to leave in such a hurry, they left behind all of their personal effects which the authorities had a great time pouring over and releasing to the public in order to heighten awareness of the dangerous duo. The crime scene became a notorious location in Joplin and was preserved due to its connection to the famous couple of the Public Enemy era.
Below is the Hollywood version of the Joplin hideout from the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty:
The film depiction of the apartment house in Joplin is plausible, but not entirely accurate. The real life building is stone-sided with an entry door on the left side:
Below is a floor-plan of the apartment which still retains the same footprint today as it did when Bonnie and Clyde stayed there:
And check out this photo of the actual glass & wood interior door that opened from the stairway landing into the living room:
I love how people back then thought to preserve items like this!
Have a look inside:
These are photos of the actual apartment….
In recent years, it was restored and wonderfully furnished in 1930′s era décor by a local pastor named Phillip McClendon. He bought the place with the intention of running it as a bed and breakfast.
Fate intervened however, when the town of Joplin was decimated by an EF-5 tornado on Sunday May 22, 2011. Although the Bonnie & Clyde apartment house survived the twister with only minor damage, the town was left with a serious shortage of housing. The decision was made to rent out the apartment on a long-term basis to tornado refugees.
These photos depict what the apartment looked like when it was set up as a bed & breakfast.
Hopefully someday when Joplin recovers from the catastrophe, the owners of this place will again be able to open it up to the public. They did a superb job of decorating the space as it would have been in 1933.
The bedroom below was the one used by those crazy, murderous lovebirds Bonnie & Clyde:
The second bedroom [pictured below] was used by Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche. Blanche was an unwilling participant in the criminal activities of the Barrow Gang, and she later recounted their time in this apartment in great detail for the historical record. You can read all the details of the shootout that day in April 1933 by clicking on the link here.
Because of the hasty exit made by the outlaws, the authorizes were able to find and seize many of the duo’s personal possessions including: guns, photographs, legal documents, clothing, jewelry and poetry written by Bonnie Parker.
Below is a rare photo of the garage on the lower level where most of the shooting took place and where the body of law enforcement officer Wes Harryman lay when it was all over:
The body of officer Harry McGinnis was found laying just outside of the garage.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: thank goodness for those forward thinking individuals who recognized how important it would be to preserve this place for us curious history-lovers of the future!
Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down a year after the Joplin raid in an ambush on a rural road in Louisiana. Thus ended their 3 year crime spree across the American south. But it was only the beginning of America’s love affair with the good-looking outlaw couple who chose to go down in a blaze of glory (and a hail of bullets), rather than to settle for a mundane suburban life.
Thanks to Tim Cooper for telling me about this one!