250 Mathenesserlaan

250 Mathenesserlaan, Rotterdam

250 Mathenesserlaan is an address that not many researchers will recognize immediately. Its an interesting place, though, the house with the yellow stripes behind me, on the picture made in 2008. I was interviewed here after the publication of my first book, where I focussed mainly on the weekend Lee Harvey Oswald spent in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. He was in Rotterdam with Marina and baby June, waiting for the departure of the ship that took them back to the US after his years in the Soviet Union.

by PERRY VERMEULEN

The address can be found in Oswald’s notebook, as you can see above. He wrote which tram they had to take, number 11, and the directions from the train station (Rotterdam North) to the tram stop: left to right. Tram 11 took his family to the Mathenesserlaan. Some researchers in Holland went to the Dutch Land Registry Office to collect information about the function of the building at 250 Mathenesserlaan, back in 1962. They found out that there was a pension, a little boarding house named ‘Huize Avilla’ (‘House Avilla’). Appearantly the pension was recommended by the American Embassy in Moscow, who organized the trip to the United States with Michael Jelisavcic, Manager of American Express Moscow.

Some unanswered questions
There are still some questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Rotterdam has a lot of cheap hotels near the train station and in the downtown district. Why did the Oswalds rent a room in an expensive pension in an upper-class neighbourhood? Their budget was not high, to say it euphemistic.
  • The landlord later told researchers that he never leased rooms for just one or a couple of nights. His rooms were filled with long stayers.
  • Next to that the landlord declared he never had any American guests. At least none he could remember. (“What do you say his name was? O-S-W-A-L-D? Never heard of that man”)

Despite these questions we can almost be sure that the Oswalds did spent the night at 250 Mathenesserlaan. Lee told friends later that he spent the night in a pension, and that he could see a huge tower when looking through his window. That information is correct: the Euromast is a famous landmark in Rotterdam, constructed between 1958 and 1960. Anno 2007 the tower isn’t visible anymore from Mathenesserlaan, due to new big buildings, but back in 1962 it was. Appearantly Marina and Lee went straight to this pension after they arrived in Rotterdam. That is at least what Marina said to author and friend Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who wrote in Marina & Lee: “The landlady gave them lunch, and then they went walking. It was a sunny day. In the pension that night, the sheets were so clean that Marina was affraid to lie down.”

A memorial in the building
Forty years after the tragedy in Dallas, in the night of November 22, 2003, there was a little memorial in the building at 250 Mathenesserlaan. An evening organised by Judyth Vary Baker, the lady who claims to be Lee’s lover in the summer of 1963 and who lived in Holland in the beginning of this century. Some friends and publishers listened to Lee’s favourite music and to stories told by Judyth, in the little room on the second floor where they thought Lee and Marina had slept that night in 1962. I met Judyth in may 2007 at the airport in Amsterdam. According to her the relationship lasted not more than around a hundred days, but appearantly the subject Rotterdam was unforgettable for Lee: he spoke about it with Judyth. He was impressed and talked nice about Holland. Judyth: “Interestingly, Lee later wrote Holland on the list of countries he wanted to visit again. He, just as I, liked the Dutch people.” The stately mansion has lost his boarding house-function since 1982. That year Mr. Huibert van der Waal moved into the building, a notary. 250 Mathenesserlaan became his office. When he bought the building he had no idea that Lee Harvey Oswald had once slept in there. He was pleasantly surprised and kept every single article about his building. He enjoyed the attention when, once in a while, journalists or researchers asked for a guided tour. That, unfortunately, isn’t possible anymore. In the end of 2005 Mr. Van der Waal retired and sold his house to a project developer. Anno 2007 the exterior of the building looks exactly the same as in 1962, but inside everything changed. The project developer made a few appartments in the mansion and every wall is torned down and replaced.

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