Oswald Rooming House Museum 1026 N. Beckley Avenue Dallas, TX 75203 469-261-7806 firstname.lastname@example.org
Located in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, is a home that most people would walk by without giving a second look. The only reason you might notice the home now, is the small sign announcing it as the Oswald Rooming House Museum.
The home was built in 1923 and has three bedrooms and was purchased by Gladys Johnson in 1943. Behind the main building is a two story garage containing eight rooms. Johnson maintained the property as a rooming house, providing up to eighteen rentable rooms. The property was operated as a rooming house until 2012. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
One of those renting a room was Lee Harvey Oswald. On October 14, 1963, Oswald rented a small bedroom in the home at a rate of $8 per week. For some reason, Oswald used the name O.H. Lee in renting the room. The room, just off the dining area, consisted of a small bed, table, lamp, and wardrobe for his clothes. The bed was placed against a wall with a window looking out to the side of the home.
It is easy to imagine that Oswald would have had little privacy in the six weeks that he roomed here. His room was located right off the main living room area and it was no doubt a high traffic area with the communal telephone located near his door. While living at the rooming house, Oswald was employed at the Texas School Book Depository (now the Sixth Floor Museum). The rooming house was only about two miles from his employer.
Oswald spent the weekdays at the Beckley Avenue home and returned to Irving, TX on weekends, where his wife, Marina Nikolayevna Oswald, and two children lived in rented quarters. They lived in the home of Ruth Hyde Paine. It was at the Paine home where Oswald hid the rifle it is said he used to kill President John F. Kennedy.
On the evening of November 21, 1963, Oswald uncharacteristically spent the night at the Paine home and it was then that he removed the stashed rifle from the garage before returning to Dallas.
The events that followed are of course subject to debate, as they have been for sixty years and probably will be for another sixty or more. With that in mind, I recommend a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum in order to get a good grip on the assassination basics. From there, there are literally hundreds of books, websites, and blogs that can help you make your own interpretation of events that unfolded that day and in the days, weeks, and months, after.
What is known, is that Oswald returned to the Johnson home where he was witnessed by housekeeper Earlene Roberts. Roberts testified that Oswald entered the home quickly, went to his room, and left several minutes later with a jacket from his wardrobe. It is believed Oswald also left with a pistol.
Shortly thereafter, less than a mile from the Johnson home, in a confrontation not fully understood, Oswald is believed to have shot and killed Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit. I use the term “believed to have” based upon the fact that no trial occurred and Oswald was never convicted of the murder. Most people believe that Tippit was killed after having stopped Oswald based upon the description of the man believed to have shot the President.
Jim Garrison is one of the leading detractors of the Oswald killed Tippit story. Others believe Tippit may have been involved in a conspiracy or involved in some manner in the assassination plot. Garrison passed away in 1992. Garrison’s work was essential to the Oliver Stone film JFK. An online memorial to Garrison may be found HERE.
Tippit, aged 39, was an eleven-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, after serving in the United States Army during World War II. Tippit’s funeral was held on November 25, 1963 and was attended by more than 2,000 people, including at least 800 fellow law enforcement officers. An online memorial to Officer Tippit may be found HERE.
Today, at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, there is a commemorative marker recognizing Tippit’s role in the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald.
After the encounter with Tippit, Oswald entered the Texas Theatre, on Jefferson Boulevard some time around 1:15p.m.
The Texas Theatre was built in 1931 and was designed by architect W. Scott Dunne. At the time, it was the largest suburban theatre in the state. In 2003, the Texas Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places based upon its importance to the local community in the area of Recreation/Entertainment and its national importance for the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Accounts of when Oswald arrived at the theatre vary from around 1p to 1:30p depending upon who you believe. Stories generally state that Oswald did not pay the required admission fee and had been acting erratically outside the building.
At around 1:45, Dallas police converged on the theatre, where Oswald, with gun in hand, was apprehended after a minor struggle. He hadn’t been connected to the Kennedy Assassination at this point.
But what of the Oswald Rooming House Museum?
Today, the home is owned and operated by Patricia Puckett-Hall, the granddaughter of Gladys Johnson, the owner when Oswald stayed in the home. Several years ago, she had put the house on the market for around $500,00 but pulled the listing. The home is in need of some repair work and our tour guide told us that Ms. Puckett-Hall is actively seeking this funding.
The museum can be accessed in two manners. The first is to arrange a tour directly with Ms. Puckett-Hall by email or phone (her contact information, taken from her business card, is located at the beginning of this post.) I have seen a few different fees and rules posted online in reviews. Fees seem to range from $20-$40 per person. Rules on photography seem to vary as well. It is possible that they have just evolved over time.
House tours, which consist of the main room of the home and the small Oswald bedroom, can be arranged for two-hour visits with Ms. Puckett-Hall. She will be available to discuss the home and her memories of Oswald. She was a young girl at the time and spent time at her grandmother’s home when Oswald was a resident. The opportunity to talk about Oswald with someone who actually knew him, is an opportunity that will not be available for many more years. Pat will also discuss her views on the assassination and what she thinks Oswald’s role was. If you are a die-hard Kennedy Assassination buff, this is the way to go.
The second option is how we visited the home. We took a guided Kennedy Assassination Tour and the Oswald Museum and admission to the Sixth Floor Museum were included. Our guide was able to answer questions, provide background, and present strong historical context. There were no photography restrictions at the museum, though access was limited to the two rooms.
The home is set up as it was during the 1963 television interview with Earlene Roberts. The bedroom is set up as it was when Oswald lived there. The furniture is that used by Oswald, with the exception of the mattress that has been replaced. Several replica items of items owned by Oswald are on display.
In the main room, it looks like time has been frozen. Everything has a strong dated sense and there is no doubt you are in the early to mid-1960s. My understanding is that with limited exceptions, these are furnishings original to the home at the time of the assassination, including the telephone that Oswald used to talk with his wife while staying in the home.
For anybody interested in the Kennedy assassination, and why would you have interest in this home for any other reason, this small house museum is a must visit. It may not be set up to “professional museum standards” but what you are witnessing is real history. Perhaps a couple of small interpretive panels would be helpful, but at times, these attempts to tell viewers what they are seeing become overwhelming. Sometimes it is best to just let the viewer see things and work through them on their own. That is how I felt here. If you go to the Sixth Floor Museum, you will be overwhelmed with panels to read.
Both visiting options have their positives. We chose the longer guided tour option in order to get as wide a view of the assassination as possible. Of course, we also had the ability to commit to a longer part of a day. For us, this was well worth the time and expense.
For those with only an hour or two, or with an intense interest in the assassination, getting in contact with the owner offers a unique perspective and comes with a smaller time and financial commitment.
For those interested in the most famous document regarding the Kennedy Assassination, the National Archives has the Warren Commission Report available online.
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