IRVING, Texas – Baby bottles sit on the kitchen counter in this small two-bedroom home in the Dallas suburb of Irving, just as they would have Nov. 22, 1963. Also the same: the rolled-up blanket where Lee Harvey Oswald had stored his rifle among the stacked boxes in the garage.
The home that once belonged to Ruth Paine, the woman who befriended Oswald’s wife and let her live there with her two young daughters, has been restored and opened as a museum. It’s the first time the public has had a look inside and comes as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas.
“The whole story is now kind of larger than life,” said Kevin Kendro, archives coordinator for the city of Irving, which runs the Ruth Paine House Museum. “It started here in a little house where average stuff was going on.”
The night before Kennedy’s assassination, Oswald made a surprise visit, as he usually saw his family on weekends. When he left the morning of the 22nd, investigators say, he was carrying a brown paper package that held the disassembled rifle.
That day, Marina Oswald and Paine did laundry and cared for their young children as usual while watching coverage of the presidential visit. But a few hours after the assassination, Kendro said, “the police were knocking on their door and their lives were changed forever after that.”
Paine, 81, now lives in California. She visited her old home earlier this month, and said she was brought to tears by the museum’s re-creation of the washing machine she and Marina once used.
“We spent a lot of time washing,” said Paine, who befriended the Russian-born Marina Oswald in February 1963.
The 1,250-square-foot house allows visitors to step back in time. Toys are scattered in a corner of the living-room floor, and in the kitchen, dishes are drying beside the sink.
In some of the rooms, projections onto glass panes show actors re-creating scenes, including one in which a police officer asks Paine whether Lee Harvey Oswald had a gun. She replies “no,” and then translates the question into Russian for Marina. Paine is taken aback when Marina Oswald replies that yes, he does, and kept it wrapped in a blanket in the garage.
Paine lived in the house until 1966 and over the decades it had several owners before the city bought it in 2009. After a renter’s lease expired in 2011, Irving began restoring the home, which included everything from replacing windows to the garage door.
The knotty pine cabinetry in the kitchen remained untouched across the decades, and one piece of furniture has been returned to the house: the hi-fi speaker belonging to Paine’s husband, whom she’d amicably separated from by the time Marina Oswald moved in.
Otherwise, city workers pored over photos from Paine, Life magazine and the Warren Commission as they searched for similar items everywhere, said Shirley Smith, the city’s capital improvement program coordinator.
Tours start at Irving’s Central Library, where visitors are greeted by a bank of television sets that include one playing interviews with Paine. Documents also are on display, including a letter from Paine inviting Marina Oswald to dinner and her response.
Visitors are then taken by van to the nearby house, where a large oak tree still stands in the front yard where Lee Harvey Oswald played with his 21-month-old old daughter, June, the night before Kennedy was killed.