DALLAS (AP) — A dilapidated Dallas apartment complex where Lee Harvey Oswald briefly lived before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is being demolished.
After a four-year battle over code violations at the uninhabited 10-unit, two-story apartment complex built in 1925, owner Jane Bryant is in the process of taking the building down per a court order. She’s been salvaging building materials and selling off items from Oswald’s three-room apartment. The toilet already has a new owner.
Bryant was never able to realize her plans to renovate the building in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas after buying it in 2007, and the next year got caught up in litigation with the city over the state of the building at 600 Elsbeth St.
“We’re not just losing a piece of fundamental history to Dallas related to the assassination, we’re also losing a piece of fundamental architecture to this area,” said Bryant, who concedes that at this point she has no choice but to tear the building down, adding, “There comes a time when you just have to cut your losses.”
The apartment, where Oswald lived from November 1962 to March 1963 with his wife, Marina, and young daughter, is mentioned in the Warren Commission report, which investigated the president’s death. The report concluded that Oswald acted alone on Nov. 22, 1963, when he fired at Kennedy’s motorcade from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository as it passed by Dealey Plaza.
Oswald then killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot, according to the report.
Oswald was arrested in the hours after the assassination, but was killed two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
The apartment where Oswald lived had the address of 604 Elsbeth St. in 1963. It was apartment No. 2. The residence was one of several in the area where he lived after returning to the U.S. from Russia in June 1962.
“He can’t hold a job for very long. He’s moving around quite a bit, can’t get settled, breaks off relations with his brother and mother soon after coming back. He goes from Fort Worth to Dallas to New Orleans, back to Dallas, basically,” said Max Holland, author of “The Kennedy Assassination Tapes.”
David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas, noted that there are more important buildings associated with Oswald than the Elsbeth Street apartment, including the boarding house where he was staying the day of the assassination and the Texas Theatre, where Oswald was arrested.
After leaving the Elsbeth Street apartment, Oswald moved a few blocks away, to Neely Street — where the famous pictures were taken of him posing in the backyard holding the rifle used in the assassination. He was living at a boarding house in the same area but on Beckley Avenue when Kennedy was assassinated.
Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, said Oswald ordered the revolver that killed Tippit in January, when he was living at the Elsbeth apartment, but notes that “the most important parts of the Oswald story are what he did, not where he did them.”
“One has to draw the line somewhere at what is or is not historically significant. For those studying Oswald’s life, this may be a more important address, but for those who are curious about the Kennedy assassination, what actually happened in Dealey Plaza is of far more significance,” Mack said.
Bryant didn’t know of the site’s link to history until the year after she bought it. After a local television station did a piece the building she had dreams of renovating, people got in contact to let her know of the Oswald connection.
She notes that the building has been a point of interest, adding that she’d had tourists from overseas come by the complex on Thanksgiving.
Bryant faced a court-ordered deadline to have the building completely demolished by Friday, which she was unlikely to meet. Per the court order, the city has the right to demolish it and place a lien on the property for the cost of demolition if the deadline is not met, but the city did not immediately say Friday when they might make that move.
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