Owner of Lee Harvey Oswald's Old Oak Cliff Apartment Sues City to Stop Demolition

600 Elsbeth, in concept and reality
600 Elsbeth, in concept and reality

We came in late to the fight over 600 Elsbeth: Back in October, we discovered that Jane Bryant was selling, through Heritage, a door to Lee Harvey Oswald's old Oak Cliff apartment, on Elsbeth and Davis. The apartment building itself is mentioned here in the Warren Commission Report; Lee and Marina moved there in November '62, though it doesn't sound like a place that holds terribly good memories for the former Mrs. Oswald. Nevertheless, there's no doubt they lived there. But it's hardly a protected landmark. In fact, if you've driven by it recently, you'll note that the place is barely standing.

Which is why, for the last three years, the city of Dallas has been trying to demolish 600 Elsbeth, taking Bryant to court over a structure it insists is "dilapidated, substandard, unfit for human habitation" and generally in desperate need of a date with a bulldozer. Back in November of last year, though, Bryant -- who says this is what she has planned for the property, a Gateway to the Bishop Arts District -- and the city came to an agreement: She had till June 15 of this year to have the place studied, secure her permits and restore the structure. Or else. That or else came at the end of July, when Administrative Judge Victor Lander told the city to bring out the wrecking ball, we're through.

You'll find all that recap on the other side, in legal docs affixed to Bryant's complaint against the city filed on Wednesday. In it, she claims "the Municipal Court Proceeding was tainted with numerous procedural and evidentiary errors that materially prejudiced" her rights, and that "600 Elsbeth Street does not constitute a public nuisance or a hazard to the public safety and welfare." Says the suit:

Upon information and belief, the July 26 Order and the interlocutory orders merged into it would, if carried into effect, constitute a taking for transfer to a private entity for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues. [And] the judges of the City's municipal courts are not elected, but rather are appointed by the City to represent the City's interests. The City lacks the separation of powers of the state and federal governments. Entities have fewer procedural protections before municipal courts exercising civil jurisdiction than they do before county and district courts. And finally, the question of whether 600 Elsbeth Street constitutes a public nuisance is a mixed question of law and constitutionally relevant fact, and must therefore be reviewed de novo under the Takings Clause.

Jump for the docs.

600 Elsbeth Appeal


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