The Historic Dealey Plaza

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Dealey Plaza is a city park that is located in the West End district of downtown Dallas, Texas. This place is also known as the birthplace of Dallas, as well as the location where U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.

During the 30th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, Dealey Plaza was named a National Historic Landmark in order to preserve Dealey Plaza along with all the buildings, structures, and street rights-of-way that have been identified as witness locations.

In this article, we are going to learn more about Dealey Plaza and why it is an important place not just in Dallas but in the United States.

History of Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza was built on land that was given by businesswoman and early Dallas philanthropist Sarah Horton Cockrell. The land was the location of the first home that was built in Dallas, which also became the first post office, courthouse, store, and fraternal lodge. That is why sometimes, the place is called the birthplace of Dallas.

Dealey Plaza was completed in 1940, and it set off the west edge of downtown Dallas where Elm Street, Main Street, and Commerce Street converge to pass under a railroad bridge that locals call as the triple underpass.

The plaza was named after the civic leader and early publisher of The Dallas Morning News, George Bannerman Dealey. He was also the one who pushed for the plaza’s revitalization; that is why there are monuments that outline the square. These monuments honor prominent Dallas residents.

Dealey Plaza and the John F. Kennedy Assassination

Wide view of Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza is restricted on the east, south, and north sides by at least 100-foot tall buildings. One of those buildings happens to be the former Texas School Book Depository Building, which both the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the Warren Commission believed to be the building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired a rifle that killed President John F. Kennedy.

Today, the plaza is often visited by tourists, and the Sixth Floor Museum now occupies the top two floors of the former Book Depository. From 1989 until today, it has been estimated that about six million people have visited the said museum.

The National Park Service hailed Dealey Plaza as a National Historic Landmark District in 1993. That is why almost all the surrounding areas between Market Street, Jackson Street, and Pacific Avenue, along with former railroad tracks, have not been torn or rebuilt. Visitors of the Dealey Plaza will see street lights and signs that were actually used in 1963. However, some of them have been moved to different locations, while others have been removed entirely.

During the 40th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, the city of Dallas approved construction project plans that aimed to restore Dealey Plaza to its exact appearance in November 1963. The project was completed in November 2008, and the city of Dallas had to spend about 700,00 USD for repair work and plumbing that was done along Houston Streets.

The Infamous Grassy Knoll

The grassy knoll is a slightly sloping hill in Dealey Plaza, which became of interest in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The grassy knoll was located above John F. Kennedy and to his right when the killing happened in November 1963.

The grassy knoll is adjacent to the former Texas School Book Depository. On the day of the assassination, several witnesses, as well as three significant traffic signposts, sidewalk lamps, and a pergola were located near the north grassy knoll.

The name Grassy Knoll was first used by reporter Albert Merriman Smith, who was also riding in the press pool car that was following the motorcade. During the investigation of the assassination, about 35 witnesses stated that they heard at least one shot fired from the grassy knoll or the triple underpass.

Because of the insistent debate, along with unanswered questions and conspiracy theories that surrounded the Kennedy assassination, the term grassy knoll became a modern slang expression that indicates a cover-up, suspicion, or conspiracy.

The Sixth Floor Museum

The former Texas School Book Depository

The Sixth Floor Museum at the Dealey Plaza is on the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration Building, which used to be the Texas School Book Depository. The museum is dedicated to the life, death, times, as well as legacy of the United States President John F. Kennedy.

The museum is also the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed the President in November 1963. Here in the museum, you will get to see historic artifacts, photographs, documentation, and government investigation reports. The Sixth Floor Museum was founded by the Dallas County Historical Foundation, and it was opened on President’s Day in February 1989.

Other Interesting Facts About Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza is known for its historical significance, but there are many other fascinating aspects to this landmark. Here are some interesting facts about Dealey Plaza that you might not know.

  • Design and Architecture: Dealey Plaza was designed in the 1930s as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Its design includes classic structures, reflecting the architectural style of the time.
  • Statues and Monuments: The plaza features several statues and monuments, including a monument dedicated to George Bannerman Dealey, the plaza’s namesake and a prominent Dallas civic leader.
  • Triangular Layout: Dealey Plaza is uniquely shaped like a triangle. This design was intentional, with streets converging at this central point, making it a key traffic hub in Dallas.
  • Historic District Status: Dealey Plaza is part of the Dealey Plaza Historic District, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. This status protects the area and its structures from significant alterations.
  • Park and Green Spaces: The plaza includes well-maintained green spaces and parks, providing a peaceful area for visitors to relax and reflect on the historical events associated with the site.
  • Film and Media: Dealey Plaza has been featured in various films, documentaries, and television shows. Its historical significance and distinctive layout make it a popular location for filmmakers.
  • Annual Events: The plaza hosts various annual events and memorials, particularly those related to President John F. Kennedy. These events draw visitors from around the world who come to pay their respects and learn more about history.

Conclusion

Dealey Plaza is a place of immense historical value and cultural importance. Beyond its historical events, the plaza’s design, architecture, and green spaces offer a unique glimpse into the past and present of Dallas. Visiting Dealey Plaza provides an opportunity to reflect on history while appreciating the beauty and significance of this iconic location.

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