DALLAS -- The suburban house where Lee Harvey Oswald spent the night before he shot President John F. Kennedy and where he stored his mail-order rifle may be made into a museum, according to officials in Irving.
"My idea is to first look at the property and see if there's an opportunity there," said Irving Mayor Herbert Gears.
City staffers have had informal discussions on how -- and whether -- to proceed, since the local press mentioned the possibility earlier this month that some special designation might be attached to the small house on West Fifth Street.
"We feel this is definitely a very historical, significant structure that needs to be preserved," said George Edwin, president of the Irving Museum Board.
But Kim Short, who has lived in the house the past eight years, seemed cool to the idea of a museum. A historical marker, perhaps, but she said she didn't necessarily feel like giving up her property.
"This is our home," she said. "We've remodeled. We have a nice back yard and fantastic neighbors. It would take lots of consideration."
On Nov. 22, 1963, a Quaker woman named Ruth Paine lived at 2515 W. Fifth St., an unpretentious two-bedroom house, much like scores of others nearby.
Estranged from her husband, Mrs. Paine had invited Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey's Russian-born wife, to share her small home. Marina had a daughter, 2-year-old June Lee, and was expecting a second child. Oswald was unable to find steady employment, and the family was destitute.
Mrs. Paine had met the Oswalds a few months before, shortly after Oswald returned from his defection to Russia. Mrs. Paine kept in touch with them after the struggling family moved to New Orleans to live briefly with an Oswald uncle.
Finally, she drove to New Orleans and helped Marina pack up their belongings and then drove them back to Irving, where she told Marina she could stay with her for as long as she needed to.
Through a neighbor of Mrs. Paine's, Oswald learned of a job at the Texas Book Depository Building. After he began working there (and living close to his work in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas), he regularly visited his wife and daughter at the Paine home.
The afternoon before Kennedy was to visit Dallas, Mrs. Paine arrived home to find Oswald in the front yard, playing with his children. (Mrs. Oswald had given birth to a second daughter weeks earlier.) Mrs. Paine thought it odd because Oswald was invited only on weekends and he had never appeared on a Thursday before. Oswald had stored his rifle in the Paine garage, but apparently took it to work the next morning, when he assassinated Kennedy.
As the years went by, the Paines moved and the house was sold at least twice. But sightseers, documentary producers and conspiracy theorists regularly have driven by, taken photographs or knocked at the door.
Marina Oswald has lived about 40 miles away in Rockwall, Texas, since the 1963 assassination. She told The Washington Times recently she had never returned to the Paine house after that weekend.
Mrs. Paine, now 74, retired several years ago and reportedly moved to Northern California. She could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Edwin of the museum board says there is no hurry to activate any plans the city might have for commemorating the house.
"That's fine," he said, "as long as it's sitting there in preserved condition. We certainly aren't out looking to grab property from anybody. When the time is right, we'd like to follow this up -- so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
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