Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
The distinctive knotty-pine kitchen cabinets. The south-facing bedroom where a wedding ring was left behind. And the garage where a blanket-wrapped rifle had supposedly been stored. All these memories are still alive in the modest dwelling at 2515 W. 5th Street, the home where Marina Oswald and her children were staying when her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald, met history on Nov. 22, 1963.
In conjunction with Irving’s Museum Board, the City of Irving has taken over the home once owned by Ruth Paine, whose testimony became an indelible part of the Warren Commission following the assassination in Dallas of President John F. Kennedy. Paine left the area decades ago and now lives quietly in California.
The City’s goal: to transform her home into an historical museum in time to be ready for the throngs of visitors who are expected to trek to the area for the 50th anniversary of the tragic event.
In addition to purchasing the 1250 square foot home for $175,000 in 2009, the City has spent an additional $30,000 on renovations. An estimated $100,000 in funds is earmarked for the project.
“We’re working to restore this home to the condition it was in,” said Irving Capital Improvement Program Director Casey Tate about the tract-style bungalow in a quiet Irving neighborhood.
“We’ve removed a few walls, gotten a replica, sixties-style roof installed and put in a vintage garage door to match what was here in 1963.”
City Archivist Kevin Kendro has been in charge of maintaining the integrity of the era. Under his guidance the picture windows lost their seamless, modern appearance and were returned to the segmented panes of the time. Since such windows are no longer made, those pieces were fabricated from scratch by a local glass company.
Tate said the work was done in-house, for the most part, making use of the City’s Building Services team. The team is still working on light fixtures, flooring and exterior paint.
The only anachronism that will remain: central air conditioning. And that’s a nod to the inevitable tourist demand.
Access to the new museum will be limited to those who have purchased tickets on a tour bus or van via an offsite visitors’ center (out of respect to a neighborhood that is already short on parking). While at the center, visitors will view exhibits and a video. There are plans to co-promote with the 6th Floor Museum to open a wider window on history.
But the Irving museum will be more than a footnote. Interest in the home on 5th Street has never dwindled, and neighbors have grown used to seeing the cars drive slowly by as occupants lift their cameras. But the curious masses have never gotten inside.
Now, visitors to Ruth Paine’s home will see the Oswald bedroom, where a dresser once stood. Lee Harvey Oswald placed some money there, along with his wedding ring, as he left the home on that November morning.
And they will peer into the cluttered garage, which retains a chill as the years are stripped away.
Kendro pointed out the spot: “When the police came, Ruth Paine and Marina were in here [in the kitchen], and were asked, was there a rifle and Marina said, well yes, they did have one, so they came in here to get it. And there was just a rolled-up blanket. The rifle was gone.”