- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

DALLAS The Texas Theater, where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured the afternoon he killed both President John F. Kennedy and a Dallas cop, will be refurbished. Developers hope it will one day be the beacon toward a renaissance for the Oak Cliff section of town.

One of the first structures ever built by Howard Hughes, the theater was opened in 1931 as a movie house but was also used for civic functions school proms, community events and the like.

It was originally surrounded by many tasteful business establishments, including restaurants, furniture stores and retail outlets, but in the decade or so after the 1963 assassination, the neighborhood and the theater fell into disrepair.

Despite several attempts to renovate it and its two subsequent openings as a movie house, owners finally sold the property to a California family. The theater has sat vacant and crumbling for years.

Now, through a HUD neighborhood recovery loan, a small grant and a low-interest loan from the City of Dallas, work has begun to restore the famous building and, backers claim, it will open early next year for musicals, stage productions, seminars and other events.

Monte Anderson, chairman of the Texas Theater Committee, envisioned the theater eventually leading the way to a cultural and economic renaissance of north Oak Cliff, an area just four miles or so southwest of downtown Dallas.

"There will be retail shops, restaurants and specialty stores, and the pawn shops and dollar stores will go away," Mr. Anderson predicted.

Already, he said, an eight-story office building called Jefferson Tower has been completely refurbished on Jefferson, the area's main artery running in front of the theater.

One of the more important aspects of the renewal plan is the owners' arrangement with the Dallas Summer Musicals, an extremely successful theater company, to handle the day-to-day operation of the theater.

Michael Jenkins, president of the Dallas Summer Musicals, said he is "excited" about the opportunity to be a part of the famed theater and the new role anticipated for it.

About $1.6 million was raised by the City of Dallas and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that money, $400,000 went to the purchase of the building and the other $1.2 million will go toward renovation.

Danielle Smith, of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, said several grant applications were in the hands of major foundations and corporations in hopes of securing additional money to recapture some of the glamour of the original edifice.

"The first phase will get us up to code and get the building occupied and retrofitted for live performances," Mrs. Smith said. "Then Phase Two will be more historic preservation and uncovering of the original Venetian interior."

Gordon Marchant, project manager for Komatsu Architecture Inc., a Fort Worth firm hired to handle the refurbishing, said the job was "exciting" because "most of the original detail is intact and undamaged."

Oswald went to hide in the theater Nov. 22, 1963, after running several blocks from where he had fatally shot Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit. The policeman had stopped Oswald shortly after a description of Kennedy's assassin had been issued.


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