It is fairly safe to say that the city of Irving, Texas is not known for its museums. As far as I can tell, it has three. One is called “The Mustangs of Las Colinas,” billed as “one of the largest equestrian sculptures in the world.” (Not even the largest, mind you, but one of the largest.) Then we have the National Scouting Museum (where visitors can practice tying knots*). Finally, there is the Irving Arts Center, a combination theater, concert hall and gallery, that tells visitors to its website that “It’s worth the trip,” but doesn’t say from where.
Fortunately, Irving (can I call it Irv?) is about to get a new museum: the house where Lee Harvey Oswald slept the night before he may or may not have shot John F. Kennedy.
Note: it’s not where Lee Harvey Oswald lived, it’s just where he stayed the night before. Fortunately for Irv, Oswald was too cheap to spring for the Motel 6.
Keep in mind that we are talking about a very nondescript house in a very nondescript residential neighborhood. Oswald didn’t even stay in the whole house; he just rented one room for his wife, from whom he was separated (something about irreconcilable differences and assassination planning). Along with his wife and child, he reportedly also stashed a blanket-wrapped rifle there.
It was with this rifle that he later displayed his previously unknown marksmanship skills. If you believe the stories, anyway.
Irv owns the house now and plans to spend $100,000 to turn it into a “historical museum” and “to restore it to its original 1963 appearance,” although, judging from the photo, there’s not a lot of work to be done in that regard. It also doesn’t look very large, does it? I can’t imagine what they could put in there that would make this worth the trip even from across the street!
But let’s say you’re on vacation in Irving, Texas because, well, I guess because you really like large horse statues. Or perhaps you are a grown man with an interest in, um Boy Scouts. Or maybe you’re even planning on being in the area next November for the 50th Anniversary of Our President Being Shot festivities. Your guidebook tells you that no trip to Irving is complete without visiting the Lee Harvey Oswald Rented a Room in This House and Slept Here the Night Before With His Wife and Rifle Museum.
And, really, you feel like you have to visit this house since the apartment in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald actually lived all the other days before 11/22/63 just got demolished this past January. Dallas evidently doesn’t value its assassin residences like Irv does.
Okay, fine. So you leave time to schlep out to Irving before looking out the window of the Dallas Book Depository (perhaps they have painted memorial crosshairs on the glass), standing reverentially on the grassy knoll, and attending the anniversary parade in Dealey Plaza which, if anybody gives it any thought, will not include a motorcade but, if you’re lucky, will include the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.**
And here you are standing outside the Lee Harvey Oswald Rented a Room in This House and Slept Here the Night Before With His Wife and Rifle Museum, which has been restored to look exactly like it did on November 21, 1963 (and also February 16, 2013) except for the ticket booth, and you buy your tickets (making sure to take advantage of your AAA discount), and you pay an extra $5 for the annoying headphones which will take you on a personal tour of the museum.
“Beep. On your right is the room Oswald rented for his wife Marina and their child, and where Lee slept the night before he killed the president alone or as part of a conspiracy or not at all. He is said to have left behind his wedding ring and some cash.”
“Beep. On your left is the door to the garage where Oswald kept his rifle wrapped in a blanket. It was an Italian Mannlicher Carcano bolt-action rifle and there is a picture of it on the wall in front of you. We hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to the Lee Harvey Oswald Rented a Room in This House and Slept Here the Night Before With His Wife and Rifle Museum. This concludes your audio tour. Please exit through the gift shop.”
Well that was fun. But you know what? As long as you’re in Texas, head on down to Waco and visit the Branch Davidian Hall of Fame and Crazy Christian Bookstore.
Send me a postcard.
See you soon.
**I actually have no idea what festivities, if any, are planned for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. So be sure to look it up before booking your flights. It may be inappropriate to have a parade of any kind, with or without a motorcade. The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, on the other hand, are always in good taste.