DALLAS (AP) – A handful of history buffs and curious onlookers watched Monday as a bulldozer tore through the walls of a dilapidated apartment building where Lee Harvey Oswald lived a few months before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The uninhabited 10-unit, two-story apartment complex built in 1925 was one of several remaining places tied to Kennedy’s Nov. 22, 1963, assassination, which remains perhaps the most infamous moment in Dallas history. Oswald lived at the building at 600 Elsbeth St. with his wife, Marina, and young daughter from November 1962 to March 1963.
The residence is mentioned in the Warren Commission report that investigated Kennedy’s death and concluded Oswald acted alone.
The bulldozer ramming through the walls started with the side where Oswald lived. Police blocked off Elsbeth Street and the sidewalk in front, but let onlookers grab bricks from the side of the building.
Tom Sclar, a local resident and musician, put five bricks in a backpack as souvenirs and possibly sale items later. Sclar said the building was included on tours he once gave to groups interested in the many alternate theories about Kennedy’s death _ though he called himself a “borderline agnostic” on the question of who shot Kennedy.
“People sell this crap for money,” Sclar said. “I’m doing it out of a weird, kitschy interest.”
Jose Sorola said he was fascinated by the history of two presidential assassins _ Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, who killed Abraham Lincoln. Sorola had heard about the upcoming demolition on the news and eventually purchased an apartment window for $125 online. His goal, he said, was to build a “traveling wall” around the window so it could be displayed to others.
“He still lived here, and in my opinion, he’s a part of Dallas history,” Sorola said. “Maybe for the wrong reason, but he’s still a part of history.”
Kennedy’s assassination still generates plenty of controversy, particularly as theories still circulate about whether Oswald acted alone. The Warren Commission’s report says Oswald shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building _ now a museum dedicated to Kennedy and the assassination. The Warren Commission also concluded that Oswald killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot.
Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, said Oswald ordered the revolver that killed Tippit in January 1963, when Oswald was living at the Elsbeth Street apartment. But, he added, “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.
Jane Bryant bought the apartment building in 2007, later saying she hadn’t known at the time about its link to history. But she was never able to realize plans to renovate it. In 2008 she got caught up in litigation with the city over the state of the building.
The city got a court order last May to have it razed and took over demolition when Bryant failed to act quickly enough.
Bryant told The Associated Press late Monday that she has spent “close to $100,000 in legal fees trying to save a historic property and trying to do everything the city asked me to do.” But she said the city “made it impossible for me to renovate.”
The city estimated demolition and asbestos abatement would run about $52,000 and said it may put a lien on the property to recover its costs.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.
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