DALLAS (AP) — A small nook off a dining room with just enough space for a twin bed has made a Dallas boarding house a point of fascination for the last 50 years, because of one man who occupied it for about six weeks in 1963: Lee Harvey Oswald.
The house has been in Patricia Hall’s family since about 1942, but she has decided that it’s finally time to let it go — as long as a buyer wants to preserve it and offers the right price for the onetime home of the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
“I understand the significance of the history of this house,” said Hall, 61. “It doesn’t matter if you believe in a conspiracy or the lone gunman. The fact is that Lee Harvey Oswald lived here.”
Oswald rented the 5-by-14 foot room on Oct. 14, 1963, from Hall’s grandmother, Gladys Johnson. He stayed at the red brick house with white trim during the week while working his new job at the Texas School Book Depository, and on the weekends he returned to the suburb of Irving where his wife lived.
Oswald briefly returned to the house on Nov. 22, 1963, about 30 minutes after Kennedy was fatally shot in downtown Dallas. Johnson’s housekeeper told the Warren Commission that Oswald hurriedly entered, grabbed a jacket and headed back out into the neighborhood. Soon after, Oswald fatally shot Officer J.D. Tippit, then was arrested at the Texas Theatre.
Hall said her grandmother, an admirer of Kennedy, was crushed by her connection to Oswald.
“My grandmother was very embarrassed and humiliated that her home would be associated with someone that would do something like that. She began getting death threats. She received a lot of hate mail,” Hall said.
But Johnson also refused to vilify Oswald, known to her as O.H. Lee, who kept his $8-a-week room tidy and was even granted refrigerator access.
“She would only be true to what her observations were,” Hall said.
Fay Puckett, Hall’s mother, ran the boarding house after Johnson’s death. Neither matriarch ever wanted to indulge sightseers, but Puckett did allow Oliver Stone to film scenes for his 1991 movie “JFK” there.
Not long after her mother’s death in 2008, Hall started letting people in to see the room, displaying a donation box to help with restorations.
“People are curious. They want to see where he lived. They want to see how he lived,” Hall said.
Hall said she’s been considering selling the house for years, but decided the time was right as this year marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas. And with the historical event in the forefront of people’s mind, she said she hopes the timing helps get the best price possible.
The 50th anniversary has been gaining attention in recent months as everyone from museum curators to musicians have embarked on projects to remember the event. The city of Dallas will hold a commemoration Nov. 22 in Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy’s motorcade was passing as shots rang out.
“I decided if there was going to be a right time, this was the right time,” she said.
David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas, said the home is “part of the whole story of what happened that day.
“We think it’s pretty significant in terms of telling the story of the assassination,” Preziosi said.
The house in the Oak Cliff neighborhood just southwest of downtown Dallas has four bedrooms and one bathroom on its main floor and five bedrooms and one bathroom in a basement. There’s also a two-story garage apartment with eight bedrooms and two bathrooms. The list price of the house, built in 1935, will be disclosed when it goes on the market Saturday.
Hall, a seventh-grader when Kennedy was assassinated, can remember Oswald breaking up a fight between her brothers in the front yard of the house.
“He separated them and sat them down on the porch and sat between them and said, ‘I want to tell you something and I want you to listen to me. You are brothers and you have to look out for each other, you have to love and never do anything that would harm another human being,'” Hall said.
Online: The Oswald House