Did You Say You Wanted to Buy Lee Harvey Oswald’s Bathtub?

The Oak Cliff apartment fixtures that witnessed the 1962-1963 fights between the assassin and his wife are on sale.  
Wed November 28, 2012 8:00 am
WFAA Screengrab
Have you ever stood in the middle of a bathroom renovation and found yourself thinking “you know, what would really tie this whole space together is Lee Harvey Oswald’s bathtub”? If so, you’re in luck. A tub from one of Oswald’s Dallas apartments has cropped up on eBay along with other assorted items because the apartment building is slated for demolition later this month. Oswald, his wife Marina, and their infant daughter, June, lived in Unit 2 of 604 Elsbeth Street in Oak Cliff from November 1962 until March 1963. 

“I am selling everything that can be pried off the building that has some significance,” the building’s owner, Jane Bryant, told the TM Daily Post in a phone interview. The building has been entangled in various legal cases for years due to zoning and code-compliance issues.

But when Bryant purchased the building in 2007, she didn’t know Oswald had once lived there. “I just thought it was a little architectural gem from the neighborhood,” Bryant said. She said she intended to renovate the complex, which was built in 1925, and to rent out some of its ten units. But she quickly ran into zoning issues because the building had been unoccupied for so long. Roy Appleton of the the Dallas Morning News recounts some of the complicated legal drama that led to a judge ultimately ordering that the building be demolished on the grounds that it constituted a safety hazard and an “urban nuisance.” (The building, which can be seen here, had never been listed as an historic place.)

Curious to know more about the Oswalds’ time together in this apartment? Let Vincent Bugliosi, author of Reclaiming History, a 1600-page, impeccably detailed tome about the JFK assassination, describe it for you:

On November 3 [1962], Lee, now having a steady job and income, rented a sixty-eight-dollar-a-month apartment for himself, Marina, and June at 604 Elsbeth Street in the Oak Cliff district of Dallas… .

The reunion of the Oswald family in a new place for a new start did not turn out to be a happy one. Marina was disheartened by the crummy apartment Lee had chosen for them. Alexandra Taylor agreed. It was a hole. “It was terrible,” she said, “very dirty, very badly kept, really quite a slum.” The floor slanted and had big bumps in it and the exterior was as depressing as the interior, “a small apartment building … two stories, overrun with weeds and garbage and people.”

That night, Marina described the place as “filthy dirty—a pigsty,” and didn’t even want to move in, but she was a trooper and stayed up until five in the morning trying to scrub it clean, without much help from Lee.

During the Oswalds’ five-month stay, their neighbors often complained about their loud, violent arguments as well as baby June’s tendency to cry through the night.

By March 3, 1963, the domestic disturbances had become too much to bear and the building’s owner, William Martin Jurek, gave Oswald a choice: either move out or stop arguing. Oswald chose the former, quickly locating a new apartment around the corner at 214 West Neely Street, Bugliosi wrote.

The couple’s landlord on Elsbeth Street, Mahlon Tobias, also lived in the building and was later interviewed by the Warren Commission about Oswald’s habits and his relationship with Marina.

The Elsbeth Street bathtub itself—which today is in need of a good scrub—earned a passing mention in Bugliosi’s book: “He did not trust Marina to bathe June without endangering her, and would happily climb into the bath to play with his baby, ordering Marina to bring them the baby’s bath toys and clean up the water they splashed on the floor.” (As of Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., no one had bid on the tub. Bidding starts at $125, and for $138 it may be bought immediately.)

Items connected, however tenuously, to the JFK assassination are among the most coveted kinds of murderabilia in history. How valuable the new additions from Oswald’s Elsbeth Street building—including a vanity, phone cozy, bricks, exterior windows, and two staircases—will soon be decided by online bidders. Bryant is even selling two of Oswald’s closets, including the one where they would sometimes put June to sleep in a crib. 

If you were hoping to buy Oswald’s toilet, however, maybe you’d have better luck trying his former communal apartment in Minsk. On Thanksgiving Day, a Kansas City man drove down to Dallas to pick up the original toilet from Oswald’s unit, which he is installing in his mancave. (The buyer even left feedback restating that goal on Bryant’s eBay page.)

Bryant seemed to have conflicted feelings on selling these items. “I feel kind of sleazy doing it,” Bryant said of her auctions. “But I can’t keep the stuff. It there are people out there who appreciate it and want it, I’ll sell it to them.”

A real estate listing for the property from February unearthed by Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park revealed a similar discomfort with celebrating something connected to Kennedy’s assassin:

This 12,870 SF of land has a 8668 SF 10-unit on it. The building is just a shell. The value is in the land and in its historical significance. The property is under a demolition order from the City of Dallas and is priced just slightly above land value. Lee Harvey Oswald lived in the building for several months and it’s mentioned five times in the Warren Commission Report. Whether that’s a pro or a con is up to the market, but it certainly makes the property interesting. 

Located with 130 feet of frontage on Davis a block from the Bishop Arts District, this property is zoned Multipurpose District 3. Buyer needs to investigate zoning as the Bishop Arts District gets a lot of political interest. Possible uses could be to restore as an apartment with historical significance, convert to office, retail, or restaurant, or to use as

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