Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza /ˈdl/ is a city park in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas. It is sometimes called the "birthplace of Dallas". It also was the location of the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963; 30 minutes after the shooting, Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The Dealey Plaza Historic District was named a National Historic Landmark on November 22, 1993, the 30th anniversary of the JFK assassination, to preserve Dealey Plaza, street rights-of-way, and buildings and structures by the plaza visible from the assassination site, that have been identified as witness locations or as possible locations for assassin(s).[2][3]

Dealey Plaza Historic District
Dealey Plaza 2003.jpg
View from southwest, with the former Texas School Book Depository building at left, Dal-Tex Building in center, and the Dallas County Records Annex at right (2003)
Dealey Plaza Historic District is located in Texas
Dealey Plaza Historic District
Dealey Plaza Historic District
Dealey Plaza Historic District is located in the United States
Dealey Plaza Historic District
Dealey Plaza Historic District
LocationRoughly bounded by Pacific Ave., Market St., Jackson St. and right of way of Dallas Right of Way Management Company, Dallas, Texas
Coordinates32°46′42″N 96°48′26″W / 32.77833°N 96.80722°W / 32.77833; -96.80722Coordinates: 32°46′42″N 96°48′26″W / 32.77833°N 96.80722°W / 32.77833; -96.80722
Area15 acres (6.1 ha)
Built1890 (1890)
Architectural styleChicago, Early Commercial, Romanesque
NRHP reference No.93001607[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 19, 1993[1]
Designated NHLDOctober 12, 1993[2][3]

National Historic LandmarkEdit

The Dealey Plaza Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1993 and designated a National Historic Landmark the same year. The former county courthouse is individually listed on the National Register and is also designated a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) and a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL). Additional properties within the district are also RTHLs. The following are contributing properties and other significant buildings within the historic district.:[3]:28

Contributing buildings
  • Texas School Book Depository (RTHL #6895, 1981), 411 Elm St. — Now known as the Dallas County Administration Building, this seven-story structure is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot killing President Kennedy from the sixth-floor window at the building's southeastern corner at N. Houston St. The 1901 building houses the Sixth Floor Museum.[3]:11–16
  • Dal-Tex Building and Annex, 501 Elm St. — This seven-story building sits immediately east across N. Houston St. from the Texas School Book Depository and is cater-corner from Dealey Plaza. The 1902 building has a three-story annex on the north to Pacific Ave. and was constructed in 1904.[3]:17–18

  • Dallas County Records Building (RTHL #6668, 1985), 509 Main St. — The original Records Building occupies half of the city block between Elm and Main along what was formerly Record St. now part of Founders Plaza to the east. The building features cut limestone with Gothic detailing and was completed in 1928.[3]:19
  • Dallas County Records Building Annex, 500 Elm St. — The 1955 annex to the Records Building has its primary facade along Elm St. facing the Dal-Tex Building. The seven-story annex occupies the northwest quadrant of the block holding the original building, and it overlooks Dealey Plaza across N. Houston St. to the west. The building holds a loading dock to the south.[3]:19

  • Dallas County Criminal Courts Building (RTHL #6667, 1986), 501 Main St. — The Criminal Courts Building is a Renaissance Revival edifice of eight stories constructed between 1913 and 1915. Its primary facade faces Main St., and it has a secondary facade facing N. Houston St. and Dealey Plaza. It is on the southwest quadrant of the block immediately adjacent to the original Records Building and separated from the Records Annex by the annex's loading dock.[3]:20
Old Dallas County Courthouse
  • Old Dallas County Courthouse (NRHP #76002019, 1976; SAL #8200000203, 1981; RTHL #6811, 1977), 100 S. Houston St. — The Romanesque Revival courthouse building was constructed between 1890 and 1892 as the county's sixth courthouse. The building is situated on the east side of S. Houston St. directly across from Dealey Plaza on the block between Main and Commerce. Also known as the "Old Red Courthouse", it is constructed of Pecos red sandstone and Little Rock blue granite. The three-story building features two 118-foot (36 m) columns of Texas granite at each of the four entrances with a central 118-foot (36 m) main column. The building now houses the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture.[3]:20–22
  • United States Post Office Terminal Annex, 207 S. Houston St. — This structure of subdued Art Deco and Classical styles was constructed in 1937 as a New Deal public works project. The public entrances and primary facade are along the west side of S. Houston St. between Commerce and Jackson. The rear of the building features loading bays along the railroad line as bulk mail was primarily transported by rail during the building's earlier decades. Similar loading bays for freight trucks line the building's south side. The lobby of the five-story building features two large murals by artist Peter Hurd. The building now houses federal government offices.[3]:22–23
  • Union Terminal Company Interlocking Tower, near Pacific Ave. in railroad yard — This two-story concrete tower covered with white-painted stucco was constructed in 1916. The building is in the rail yard west of the School Book Depository, and features a hipped roof with wide overhangs. The first floor is accessed from the east and stored mechanical equipment. The second floor is reached by a stairs from the south and held a central switching console and windows overlooking all sides.[3]:24–25
Contributing sites
Street mark at Assassination Site
  • Kennedy Assassination Site, Elm St. between N. Houston St. and the Triple Underpass — A white "X" on the Elm St. pavement marks the spot where President Kennedy was fatally shot.
  • Missouri, Kansas, & Texas (MKT) Railroad Yards, West of N. Houston St. between Elm St. and Pacific Ave. — Six railroad tracks running from north to south converge into four at the Triple Underpass. Five curved rail spurs have since been removed and replaced with parking. The yard, which extends west and north of the School Book Depository, includes the Interlocking Tower and a small office or shed.[3]:23–25
Contributing structures
  • Reflecting pools and colonnades, Dealey Plaza along Houston St. — Two reflecting pools extend along Houston St. within the plaza with each extending from Main St. to the edges of the plaza. Both pools are rectangular on their ends near Main and oval-shaped at their ends along the edges. Curved concrete colonnades with pylons at the ends run along the west of each reflecting pool. Concrete planters holding oak trees are placed between the pools and the colonnades. East from the planter box on the north side of Main St. is a tall, graduated obelisk. Immediately west of the obelisk is a bronze bas relief marker mounted on red granite illustrating President Kennedy's visit to Dallas.[3]:6,9
  • Pergolas, Dealey Plaza along Elm and Commerce streets — Two concrete columnar pergolas, one north of Elm St. and the other south of Commerce St., symmetrically gate the portion of Dealey Plaza where Elm and Commerce converge toward Main St. as they approach the Triple Underpass. Both pergolas are reached by broad steps ascending the grassy inclines approaching from the streets. The Elm St. pergola, located adjacent to the Grassy Knoll, has a historical marker honoring John Neely Bryan, Dallas' founder. The Commerce St. pergola has a marker describing the pioneer Cockrell family. Cedar fencing in the vicinity of both pergolas originally separated Dealey Plaza from surrounding properties, but these are best preserved at the Bryan pergola where the fencing was restored in 1988.[3]:7,8
  • Triple Underpass, west edge of Dealey Plaza at convergence of Elm, Main, and Commerce streets — This unpainted concrete railroad overpass was constructed by the Works Progress Administration along with the other original amenities of Dealey Plaza. The Art Deco-styled facility features square balusters and square columns reminiscent of other structures within the park.[3]:6
Contributing objects
  • Dealey Statue, 101 S. Houston St. — The Dealey Statue, featuring the likeness of the plaza's namesake George Dealey, is located on the south side of the Main St. entrance to the plaza along Houston St. The bronze statue replaced an obelisk in 1949 that was originally paired with the existing obelisk across Main St. to the north. The statue was sculpted in 1948 by Felix de Weldon and is mounted atop a tall red granite plinth. Behind the statue is a red granite slab with four bronze bas relief tablets consistent in appearance to the Kennedy marker behind the north obelisk. The tablets describe Dealey's professional and community accomplishments.[3]:6–7
Kennedy Memorial
  • Kennedy Memorial and Plaza, 600 Main St. — The Kennedy Memorial and Plaza is located between Main St. and Commerce St. west of S. Market St. The 1969 memorial is located within the middle of a plaza on the eastern half of a double block it shares with the former county courthouse due to the previous closure of Record St. The memorial plaza sits above an underground parking structure and includes trees and benches around the memorial. The Kennedy Memorial is a cenotaph designed by architect Philip Johnson featuring a 50-by-50-foot (15 m) open space with 30-foot (9.1 m) vertically scored concrete walls. Two narrow openings extend to the top in the middle of the north and south walls. In the center of the memorial is a square 8-foot (2.4 m) black granite slap with the president's name engraved in gold.[3]:26

Dealey Plaza and all of the contributing buildings are part of the Westend Historic District (NRHP #78002918, 1978; Dallas Landmark Historic District #H/2, 1975[4]) with the single exception of the U.S. Post Office Terminal Annex which is outside of the boundaries of that district. The Kennedy Memorial and Plaza is the only contributing property not in existence at the time of the assassination nor in view of its site.[5]:11–14

Non-contributing buildings
  • Sixth Floor Museum Visitor Center Building, N. Houston St. adjacent to Texas School Book Depository — The Visitor Center is a one-story brick building north of the School Book Depository extending along N. Houston St. toward Pacific Ave. The building, constructed in 1989, is designed to mimic the materials and architectural elements of the School Book Depository from which it is connected with a stone and glass hyphen. A free-standing brick elevator tower connects the center to the Sixth Floor Museum in the depository building. The building is out of view from the assassination site, but it does have an open porch overlooking the Grassy Knoll.[3]:17
  • Railroad Office/Shed, near Pacific Ave. east of Interlocking Tower — This is a small one-story brick building constructed after the 1989 demolition of a predecessor that was erected at some point between 1930 and 1950 near the same location.[3]:24 The previous structure was listed as a compatible, but not a contributing property within the Westend District.[5]:12


Dealey Plaza in 1969. The Texas School Book Depository can be seen in the background.

Dealey Plaza was built on land donated by early Dallas philanthropist and businesswoman Sarah Horton Cockrell. It was the location of the first home built in Dallas, which also became the first courthouse and post office, the first store, and the first fraternal lodge. It is sometimes called the "birthplace of Dallas".[6] The plaza was completed in 1940 as a WPA project[7] on the west edge of downtown Dallas where three streets converge (Main Street, Elm Street, and Commerce Street) to pass under a railroad bridge known locally as the "triple underpass."

The plaza is named for George Bannerman Dealey (1859–1946), a civic leader and early publisher of The Dallas Morning News, who had campaigned for the area's revitalization. Monuments outlining the plaza honor previous prominent Dallas residents and predate President John F. Kennedy's visit by many years. The monument honoring President Kennedy, in the form of a cenotaph, is one block away.

John F. Kennedy assassinationEdit

Warren Commission diagram of plaza
The path used by the motorcade. North is almost directly to the left.

Dealey Plaza is bounded on the south, east, and north sides by 100+ foot (30+ m) tall buildings. One of those buildings is the former Texas School Book Depository building, from which, both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded, Lee Harvey Oswald fired a rifle that killed President Kennedy; 30 minutes after the shooting, Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital. There is also a grassy knoll on the northwest side of the plaza. At the plaza's west perimeter is a triple underpass beneath a railroad bridge, under which the motorcade raced after the shots were fired.

National Historic Landmark plaque at Dealey Plaza.

Today, the plaza is typically visited daily by tourists. The Sixth Floor Museum now occupies the top two floors of the seven-story former Book Depository. Since 1989, more than six million people have visited the museum.

The National Park Service designated Dealey Plaza a National Historic Landmark District on November 22, 1993, the 30th anniversary of JFK assassination, roughly encompassing the area between Pacific Avenue, Market and Jackson Streets and the former railroad tracks. Therefore, nothing of significance has been torn down or rebuilt in the immediate area. (A small plaque commemorating the assassination is located in the plaza.)

Visitors to Dealey Plaza today will see street lights and street signs that were in use in 1963, though some have been moved to different locations and others removed entirely. Buildings immediately surrounding the plaza have not been changed since 1963, presenting a stark contrast to the ultra-modern Dallas skyline that rises behind it.

Over more than half-a-century, Elm Street has been resurfaced several times; street lane stripes have been relocated; sidewalk lamp posts have been moved and added; trees, bushes and hedges have grown; and some traffic sign locations have been changed, relocated or removed. On November 22, 2003, the 40th anniversary of JFK assassination, the city of Dallas approved construction project plans to restore Dealey Plaza to its exact appearance on November 22, 1963. The first phase of the restoration, which spent $700,000 for repair work and plumbing along Houston Streets, was completed on November 22, 2008, the 45th anniversary of JFK assassination.

Grassy knollEdit

The Grassy Knoll and Bryan pergola on the north side of Elm Street

The grassy knoll is a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became of interest following the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. The knoll was above Kennedy and to his right (west and north) during the assassination on November 22, 1963.

This north grassy knoll is adjacent by the former Texas School Book Depository building along the Elm Street abutment side street to the northeast, Elm Street, and a sidewalk to the south, a parking lot to the north and east and a railroad bridge atop the triple underpass convergence of Commerce, Main and Elm streets to the west.

The wooden picket fence atop the grassy knoll, and the Triple Underpass with the highway sign, which at the time of the assassination read "Fort Worth Turnpike Keep Right", as similarly seen in the Zapruder film. The knoll is where many conspiracy theorists believe another gunman stood.

Located near the north grassy knoll on November 22, 1963, there were several witnesses, three large traffic signposts, four sidewalk lamp posts, the John Neely Bryan north pergola concrete structure including its two enclosed shelters, a tool shed, one 3.3 foot (1 m) high concrete wall connected to each of the pergola shelters; ten tall, wide, low-hanging live oak trees; a five-foot (1.5 m) tall, wooden, cornered, stockade fenceline measured at approximately 169 feet (53.6 m) long; six street curb sewer openings, their sewer manholes and their interconnecting large pipes; and several 2 to 6 foot (0.6 to 1.8 m) tall bushes, trees and hedges.

The term "grassy knoll" was first used to describe this area by reporter Albert Merriman Smith of UPI, who was riding in the press "pool car" following the motorcade and had use of the car's radio-telephone. In his second dispatch from the car just 25 minutes after the shooting, he said, "Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president's car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed." These words were then repeated on national television by CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite in his second CBS bulletin on the shooting.[8]

Out of the 104 Dealey Plaza earwitness reports published by the Commission and elsewhere, 56 recorded testimony that they remembered hearing at least one shot fired from either the Depository or near the Houston/Elm Street intersection. 35 witnesses recorded testimony of at least one shot fired from either the grassy knoll or the triple underpass. Eight stated that they heard shots being fired from elsewhere, and five testified that the shots were fired from two different directions.[9]

Because of the persistent debate, answered and unanswered questions, and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination as well as the possible related role of the grassy knoll, the term "grassy knoll" has come to also be a modern slang expression indicating suspicion, conspiracy, or a cover-up.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Dealey Plaza Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Dallas County Historical Foundation (August 1991). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Dealey Plaza Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved June 7, 2012. Cite journal requires |journal= (help) and Accompanying photos and maps, various dates (3.14 MB)
  4. ^ Staff (August 4, 2016). "West End Historic District" (PDF). Department of Urban Planning, City of Dallas. p. 3. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Williams, Joe; Hardy, Danny; Moore, David (November 14, 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form: Westend Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Fetzer, James H. (2013). Murder in Dealey Plaza: What We Know that We Didn't Know Then about the Death of JFK. Open Court. p. 30. ISBN 0812698657. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  7. ^ "12 WPA Projects that Still Exist". How Stuff Works. Publications International, Ltd. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  8. ^ Pages documenting this are held by Gary Mack, Curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The Man Who Named the Grassy Knoll at the museum's website, page found 2012-12-07.
  9. ^ Dealey Plaza Ear witnesses. Two members of the Willis family who testified for the Commission reported in interviews with Nigel Turner for The Men Who Killed Kennedy that their testimony included witness reports of shots fired from the grassy knoll, but that these reports were omitted from the Commission's publication. However, it did include their reports of shots from the Depository building. They also reported that the fatal shot came from behind them.

Further readingEdit

  • Dealey, Jerry T. (2002). D in the Heart of Texas. JEDI Management Group. ISBN 0-9723913-0-4. (includes history of Dealey Plaza).

External linksEdit