HOUSTON--This week, Dallas city officials plan to begin razing a local apartment complex once home to notorious John F. Kennedy assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
The site does not appear to have any national or state historic designation. But the decision has still caused a stir in a city where sites related to the assassination have proved a major draw, including Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was shot (which is officially a national historic district) and the adjacent Texas School Book Depository, where the assassin lay in wait, now the Sixth Floor Museum, which sees 325,000 annual visitors.
The decision to demolish the apartment also comes at an odd moment, as Dallas is gearing up to officially mark the assassination for the first time next November, the 50th anniversary.
Oswald shared apartment 2 at 600 Elsbeth St. with his wife, Marina, from November 1962 to March 1963, one of three places Oswald lived in north Oak Cliff. He and his family moved from Elsbeth to an apartment at 214 W. Neely St. on March 3, 1963. He was renting a room at 1026 N. Beckley Ave. on Nov. 22 that year, the day he was arrested after the killings of President John F. Kennedy and Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit.
The 88-year-old two-story red brick complex has fallen on hard times since Oswald lived there, its walls crumbling, windows patched with plywood, and surrounded by a chain link fence.
Two years ago, a judge ordered the building demolished. City officials and other opponents told the Dallas Morning News that the dilapidated building was a hazard impeding development in the surrounding Bishop Arts District. The city sued in March 2008 to have the 8,700-square-foot structure repaired or demolished.
Owner Jane Bryant of Align LP, who bought the apartments six years ago with the intention of renovating, initially fought the demolition, telling the Morning News that city inspectors unfairly targeted the property. She eventually agreed to demolish the site herself, salvaging what she could, including the toilet bowl from apartment 2, which she sold, according to the Morning News.
But after Bryant failed to meet city demolition deadlines, Dallas officials announced plans to raze the building starting Monday.
“The condition of the Property has worsened since November 30, 2012, is an attractive nuisance to vandals, and threatens harm to the public health, safety and welfare,” Dallas Senior Assistant City Attorney Andrew Gilbert wrote Monday in a letter to Bryant’s company posted online by the Morning News and supplied to The Times by city officials, along with emails, photographs of the apartments and other supporting documents. “In addition, the City is concerned that Align may not have properly abated all asbestos containing materials from the property, including sheet rock that contains asbestos.”
Bryant did not return calls or emails Monday.
Dallas City Hall spokesman Frank Librio told The Times that city contractors were conducting asbestos abatement at the apartments Monday morning, a first step before demolition that could take until Wednesday.