As One Oswald Home Is Demolished, Another Is to Become A Museum
This week, Irving and Dallas took different approaches to residences formerly occupied by JFK's assassin.
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Two Dallas-area buildings once occupied by presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald met opposite fates this week. While Irving made a move to restore the home where Oswald spent the night before assassinating John F. Kennedy, Dallas announced that it would demolish the now-derelict apartment complex where Oswald lived with his wife shortly before the murder.
Irving Home: 2515 West 5th
Back in December, the Dallas Morning News reported that the city of Irving had purchased the home where Oswald stayed on November 21, 1963 (pictured above). In the sixties, the home belonged to Ruth Paine, a housewife and mother of two who had separated from her husband.
According to the Warren Commission, Paine met Oswald’s wife, Marina Oswald, at a party in February 1963. The two became fast friends and Marina Oswald came to live with Paine in late April through early May:
Marina Oswald and her child resided with Ruth Paine for a little over 2 weeks while Oswald sought a job in New Orleans in late April and early May 1963. In May, she transported Marina Oswald to New Orleans, paying all of the traveling and other expenses. While the Oswalds were in New Orleans, the two women corresponded. Mrs. Paine came to New Orleans in late September and took Marina Oswald and her child to her home in Irving.
Marina Oswald continued to live with Paine from September up until the time of President Kennedy’s assassination. The report reads:
Marina Oswald lived with Ruth Paine through the birth of her second daughter on October 20, 1963, and until the assassination of President Kennedy. During this period, Oswald obtained a room in Dallas and found employment in Dallas, but spent weekends with his family at the Paine home.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Oswald visited Ms. Paine’s home one Thursday night, about a week after he and his wife had argued over the phone about a fake name he used when seeking employment. She assumed that he had come to apologize, but she was wrong:
The next morning, her guest rose quietly in the spare bedroom, left his wedding ring on the dresser and slipped into the cluttered garage.
There, wrapped in a blanket atop a pile of his family’s belongings, lay the rifle Oswald had kept secret from his host.
Almost half a century later, the garage is now filled with renovation supplies intended to transform Ms. Paine’s home into the Paine House Museum. Paine, who is now in her 80s and resides in California, left the place following President Kennedy’s assassination. It has been owned by different people for decades, until the City of Irving purchased the home three years ago for $175,000. So far the City has spent $30,000 on restoration costs and expects that another $100,000 will be necessary to finish it up before the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination, this coming November.
"The story of the assassination has been told and told," City Archivist Kevin Kendro, who is leading the restoration, told the Dallas Morning News. "We want to focus on Ruth Paine—this Irving housewife living out here in the suburbs."
Dallas Apartment: 600 Elsbeth St., Apt. 2
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported this week that the apartment where Oswald and his wife lived for several months between November 1962 and March 1963—before Marina Oswald came to live with Paine—was in the process of being demolished.
The ten-unit complex on Elsbeth St. was built in 1925, but was never listed as a historic place, and it hasn’t been occupied for years. As Sonia Smith previously wrote for TMDP, A judge ordered its destruction “on the grounds that it constituted a safety hazard and an ‘urban nuisance.’ The Times’ Molly Hennessy-Fiske describes the place thusly:
The 88-year-old two-story brick apartment complex has fallen on hard times since Oswald lived there. Its walls are crumbling, windows are patched with plywood, and it is surrounded by a chain-link fence. [Jane] Bryant, [the owner] who lives in Dallas and teaches business at a community college, bought the building six years ago planning to move in and run an apparel business on the first floor.
Two years ago, a judge ordered the building demolished. The city had sued in March 2008 to have the roughly 8,700-square-foot structure repaired or taken down.
Bryant initially fought the demolition but eventually agreed to have it done.
In November, Bryant took to eBay with the building’s toilets and bathtubs. She told TMDP at the time, “I am selling everything that can be pried off the building that has some significance.” She posted the bathtub at a starting price of $125. Next, she hoped to salvage the yellow heart pine and white oak.
Bryant had understood that the City would delay demolition so long as her work was in progress, but on Monday a reporter calling for a comment incidentally informed her that the city was making a move. When Bryant went to her building, police on the premises prevented her from entering.
According to a Dallas CBS affiliate, this week crews will remove the drywall and roof. Bulldozers are expected to take down the apartment complex on January 14.