Dallas Razes Oswald's Residence Nearly 50 Years After JFK Assassination

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Dallas Razes Oswald's Residence Nearly 50 Years After JFK Assassination
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A view of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, including the former Texas School Book Depository. (Photo courtesy …

On January 14, the city of Dallas finally bid farewell to the vacant apartment house inhabited by Lee Harvey Oswald several months before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 2011, a judge cited concerns about public safety and ordered the demolition of the dilapidated, two-story apartment building located on Elsbeth Street in Oak Cliff. Years of legal disputes between the city and the property owner, Jane Bryant, delayed the demolition until the city dispatched a crew to raze the building Monday.

Historical Significance?

The apartment building, reportedly built in 1925, was home to Oswald, his wife, and their infant daughter from November 1962 until March 1963. It is mentioned repeatedly in the Warren Commission report, the investigation of Kennedy's assassination, as friends recounted the Oswalds' ongoing financial and marital struggles. The landlady at the Elsbeth apartment, Mrs. Tobias, told an FBI agent that tenants complained about Oswald "drinking to excess and beating his wife." The location was never designated as a historical site.

Dallas resident Rebecca Cedillo says, "Where [Oswald] lived for a few months is of no real significance."

Other locals, like Veronica Carrion, believe the building had "historical value" that merited preservation.

The Stephen King Connection

Popular books and movies, such as Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning "JFK," explored the myth and mystery of the Kennedy assassination plot. In 2011, Stephen King entered the fray with his novel "11/22/63." A supernatural love story of sorts, "11/22/63" follows a modern-day high school English teacher who travels back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. Naturally, the 1960s backdrop features nostalgic elements such as classic American cars, sock hops, and Elvis tunes. King also incorporates historical details of Oswald's life, including the Elsbeth apartment.

A Dark Legacy

Dallas still struggles with its dubious connection to Kennedy. In 1996, Paul Crute charged tourists $25 to retrace the infamous presidential motorcade in a 1964 Lincoln. Recorded sound effects and news broadcasts delivered an eerily accurate soundtrack as the car traveled past the Texas School Book Depository before heading to Parkland Hospital.

In 1998, the Red Jacket Club on Lower Greenville Avenue celebrated Jack Ruby, who was convicted of murdering Oswald. The Ruby Room's decor included a neon gun sculpture and giant photo of Oswald as the fatal bullet hit him.

The Texas Theatre drew criticism in 2011 for selling a T-shirt featuring an image of Oswald. The historic theatre was the site of Oswald's arrest following the assassination of Kennedy.

As the semicentennial of the assassination draws near, Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to celebrate Kennedy's life, values, and service to America. The carefully planned public memorial is simply called "The 50th."

A lifelong resident of Dallas, Drew Taylor enjoys writing about life in Big D and explores local happenings and attractions.

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