On a recent trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I was surprised to find out how many sites there were related to the JFK assassination.
With so many different places to see, you might have to narrow down your options to only a few and if that is the case then I would highly recommend you checking out the Ruth Paine House Museum.
Below, I’ll give you a detailed review of the experience and let you know exactly what to expect and how to book if you’re interested.
What is the Ruth Paine House Museum?
The Ruth Paine House Museum is a house turned museum that is known for being the place where Lee Harvey Oswald stayed the night before the JFK assassination.
Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina Oswald, lived at the Ruth Paine House and Lee Harvey Oswald would spend weekends there when he was not staying at his boarding house (which you can also visit).
Now, the house is a museum open to the public and full of exhibits that tell the story of Ruth Paine, Michael Paine, Lee Oswald, and Marina Oswald.
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Where is the Ruth Paine House Museum?
The Ruth Paine House Museum is located at 2515 W. 5th Street, Irving, TX.
Before the pandemic, tours would begin at the Irving Archives Museum and then you would be transported to the house in a van.
However, now you simply arrive at the Ruth Paine House Museum and then you can decide if you want to visit the Irving Archives Museum afterwards. (The museum is only about a seven minute drive away from the house at 801 W Irving Blvd, Irving, TX 75060.)
Reservations are required to visit the Ruth Paine House Museum and you can book a tour through this website. Tickets are $12 per person which in my opinion is a bargain.
Ruth Paine House Museum Background
In 2009, the City of Irving purchased the Paine House and in 2011 they began efforts to restore the house to its original 1963 appearance.
This wasn’t the cheapest task and it’s estimated that they spent about $100,000.
Eventually, the Ruth Paine Home was ready for visitors and it opened up on November 6, 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.
Over the years, the museum has added additional artifacts and household items and they seem to be continually working to make the house look more and more like how it appeared in the 1960s.
Ruth Paine House Museum Tour
Before you enter the house, your guide should give you a briefing on a lot of the background of the house and Ruth Paine herself.
You’ll find out who she was and what was going on in her life when she decided to let Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina, live with her.
Once you hear the full story of how it all came to be, it all sort of makes sense why she would let them into her house.
You’ll also learn a little bit about the neighbors including the neighbor that got Lee Oswald the job at the Texas School Book Depository and the one that took him to work on the day of the shooting.
It’s pretty fascinating that multiple homes on the street have such close ties to the JFK assassination.
Inside the Ruth Paine House Museum
The tour is a pretty simple one which will take you through a handful of different rooms in this tiny house.
In each room, you’ll find short re-enactments of different scenes that are displayed through projected vignettes. It’s definitely one of the more unique ways to take in this type of history.
The re-enactments will mostly tell the stories of Ruth, Marina, and Lee during their time living at the house and before and after the assassination.
You really get a sense of the type of relationships that these people had with each other which I believe helps you understand the type of people that they were.
It’s a pretty well done exhibit overall but I would recommend two changes to improve the experience:
First, my recommendation would be for the museum to time the start of the movie projections a little better because we were dropped into some of the rooms midway through the scenes.
Also, the volume from the other rooms is a little loud and can make it difficult to focus on what you’re listening to because of multiple voices coming from different areas in the house.
If they could fix those two things, I think it would greatly enhance the visitor experience.
On the tour, you’ll start off in the living room which has some original items from the house including the speaker box and a large brown lamp.
This living room is where a very famous photo was taken from Time magazine that featured Oswald’s mother and Marina Oswald with her infant.
Reportedly, Oswald’s mother thought she was being paid for the photo shoot and after she found out that was not the case she became uninterested and was basically over it.
From the living room, you will head to a couple of the bedrooms.
The first bedroom is the room that Lee Oswald slept in the night before the assassination and it’s probably one of the main attractions of this museum for most people.
Lee woke up early that morning, went through his morning coffee drinking routine and without waking anyone in the house headed out with his rifle but not before leaving behind his wedding ring and some cash next to Marina’s bed.
Lee’s wedding ring can still be viewed today at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.
The second bedroom is Ruth Paine’s old room where you can hear more of her story.
The bathroom is said to be virtually unchanged from the 1960s, including the bright pink color that you find today.
The kitchen is a really cool area that even has appliances dating back to the 1960s.
In addition to some retro literature, you’ll find some photographs which were used to track down the right type of appliances and other furniture items during the restoration efforts.
It’s actually really fascinating how they’ve used family photos and videos from interviews to reconstruct the interior of the house.
Also, I found it pretty impressive how they were able to find items that were exact or nearly exact matches to what was in the house previously.
From the kitchen, you can check out the backyard although there is not much to see other than a swing set. Beware: there is a pretty obnoxious dog in the neighboring yard that will likely go on a barking spree when you enter the backyard.
After you check out the kitchen you’ll be ushered into the garage where Lee Oswald stored (and hid) his bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle unbeknownst to the owner Ruth Paine.
Ruth was a devout Quaker who would have surely objected to the presence of a gun in her house but Lee and Marina did not tell her about the gun.
In fact, when the police arrived to investigate, Ruth was stunned to find out that Marina knew Lee had stored his rifle in the house.
One can only imagine the thoughts that were running through her head over that weekend.
On the wall in the garage, you can find some info on some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination. As you might expect, Ruth Paine was accused of playing a role in some of those conspiracies.
Irving Archives and Museum
Once you finish at the house you have the option of heading over to the Irving Archives and Museum which I would recommend doing.
The Irving Archives and Museum has a special exhibition room dedicated to Ruth.
Inside, you’ll find old school 1960s TVs stacked in the corner replaying black and white news footage from the time of the assassination.
The screen in the middle is the main attraction and you can choose from about seven different short video clips — each clip about five to six minutes long.
These video clips showcase interviews with Ruth Paine where she goes into detail about things like dealing with the grief of JFK’s assassination and her association to it.
She also talks about dealing with the negative spotlight, and her thoughts on Marina, Leo Oswald, and more.
I recommend checking out the exhibit because in addition to giving you insight into Lee and Marina’s relationship, it really does a good job of telling the story Ruth Paine.
It’s unimaginable to think about how it would feel to know you were housing the alleged assassin of the President of the United States.
However, if you listen to the interviews you’ll find that Ruth is an extremely open person and seems like a very genuine and trustworthy person as well.
The Ruth Paine Museum is a must-see attraction for people interested in the JFK assassination. Admission is cheap and I found it very worthwhile to watch history play out in the actual rooms where these events took place.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.