On this day in 1963, a worker at the Wm. B. Reily & Co. coffee plant (pictured here) was fired. That worker’s name was Lee Harvey Oswald, and four months later, he would go on to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Born in 1939 and raised in the Ninth Ward, Oswald left New Orleans to join the Marines and spent a brief stint living in the Soviet Union, and later Dallas, before returning to the Crescent City in 1962 with his wife Marina. The couple settled in Uptown, and Oswald was hired as a “greaser and oiler maintenance man” at the Wm. B. Reily & Co. plant. According to interviews and affidavits conducted by the Warren Commission, Oswald frequently neglected his duties and chose instead to socialize with Adrian Alba, who owned a service station next door to the plant (an earlier garage can be seen to the left of the Wm. B. Reily & Co. plant in the historic photograph.) Oswald’s supervisor eventually had enough and fired him on July 19, 1963. Oswald then left New Orleans, traveled to Mexico, and returned to Dallas a month before assassinating Kennedy.
Wm. B. Reily & Co. moved into this property on Magazine Street in 1909. The building served as a warehouse and manufacturing facility for a variety of companies through the years, including the Louisiana Molasses Company, and its current appearance dates to 1927. The site, which had served as office space for the Wm. B. Reily & Co. for decades, was vacated in 2018 and subsequently transformed into apartments. A multi-story parking facility now sits on the former site of Alba’s Crescent City Garage.
Historic photograph of the Wm. B. Reily & Co. plant circa 1929 courtesy of Louisiana Digital Library; Research and present-day photos by Jack Gillespie