Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza
Dealey Plaza Historic District
View from southwest, with the former Texas School Book Depository Building at left, and the Dal-Tex Building, right next to it
Location: 411 Elm Street, Dallas, Texas
Coordinates: 32°46′43″N 96°48′30″W / 32.77861°N 96.80833°W / 32.77861; -96.80833Coordinates: 32°46′43″N 96°48′30″W / 32.77861°N 96.80833°W / 32.77861; -96.80833
Area: 150 acres (60 ha)
Built: 1940
Governing body: Local (City of Dallas)
NRHP Reference#: 93001607
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: October 12, 1993[1]
Designated NHLD: October 12, 1993[2][3]

Dealey Plaza (play /ˈdl/), in the historic West End district of downtown Dallas, Texas (U.S.), is the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The Dealey Plaza Historic District was named a National Historic Landmark in 1993 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 assassin locations.[2][3]



Dealey Plaza in 1969

Dealey Plaza is a Dallas city park, land donated by early Dallas philanthropist and business person, Sarah Horton Cockrell, completed in 1940 as a WPA project[4] 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), an early publisher of the Dallas Morning News and civic leader, and the man who had campaigned for the area's revitalization. Many assume the monuments outlining the plaza are there to honor President Kennedy, but they actually honor previous prominent Dallas residents and predate President Kennedy's visit by many years. The actual Dallas monument to Kennedy, in the form of a cenotaph, is located one block away.

Kennedy assassination

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 John F. Kennedy. There is also a grassy knoll on the northwest side of the plaza, from which, the House Select Committee on Assassinations determined, based on controversial and disputed acoustic analysis, there was a "high probability" that a second gunman also fired at President Kennedy, but missed. 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 filled with tourists visiting the assassination site and The Sixth Floor Museum that now occupies the top two floors of the seven story former Book Depository. Since 1989, more than 6 million people have visited the museum.

The National Park Service designated Dealey Plaza a National Historic Landmark District in 1993, 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 exists 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 the last 40+ years, 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. In late 2003, the city of Dallas approved construction project plans to restore Dealey Plaza to its exact appearance on November 22, 1963. As of 2004, voters had approved US$500,000 of the $3,000,000 needed.[5]

Grassy knoll

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

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

The north grassy knoll is bounded 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 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" in the Zapruder Film.

Located near the north grassy knoll on November 22, 1963, 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 5 foot (1.5 m) tall, wooden, cornered, stockade fenceline approximately 169 feet (53.6 m) long, six street curb sewers openings, their sewer manholes and their interconnecting large pipes and numerous 2 to 6 foot (0.6 to 1.8 m) tall bushes, trees and hedges.

Behind the stockade fence was a train control tower in which Lee Bowers was working during the assassination. Bowers testified to the Warren Commission that at the time the motorcade went by on Elm Street, he saw two men in the area of the stockade fence, standing 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 m) apart near the triple underpass, who did not appear to know each other. One or both were still there when the first police officer arrived "immediately" after the shooting.[6] Two years later, in an interview for the documentary film Rush to Judgment, Bowers clarified that the two men were standing between the pergola and the stockade fence, and that no one was behind the fence at the time the shots were fired.[7]

On the knoll itself were nine witnesses: groundskeeper Emmett Hudson, and two unidentified men, standing on the stairs of a walk going from Elm Street to a parking lot; an unidentified young couple having lunch on a bench in an alcove along that same walk, who may have left prior to the assassination; Abraham Zapruder and his employee Marilyn Sitzman, standing on a pedestal on the west end of the pergola; and Zapruder employee Beatrice Hester and her husband Charles, standing by and sitting on a bench at the other end of the pergola. Emmett Hudson, Charles Hester, and Marilyn Sitzman, the three witnesses on the grassy knoll who are on record about the direction of shots, all said that the shots came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Of the 104 earwitness reports published by the Commission and elsewhere, 56 recorded testimony to the effect that they heard shots from the direction of the Depository to the rear of the President, 35 recorded testimony of shots from the direction of the knoll or the triple underpass to the right or front of the President, and five earwitnesses were reported testifying that the shots came from two directions.[14]

Persistent Grassy Knoll theories stem also from studies of recorded police-radio transmissions, which recorded sounds from Dealey Plaza in the moments during and after the assassination.

Because of persistent debate, answered and unanswered questions, and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and 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.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-05-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Dealey Plaza Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  3. ^ a b (PDF) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Dealey Plaza Historic District. National Park Service. , 19. Retrieved 2009-06-22  and Accompanying photos and maps, various datesPDF (3.14 MB)
  4. ^ "12 WPA Projects that Still Exist". How Stuff Works. Publications International, Ltd.. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  5. ^ Dallas Morning News — 27 January 2004. "Assassination still stirs memories, debate 40 years later" by the Associated Press (AP). Retrieved 25 October 2006.
  6. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, Testimony of Lee E. Bowers, Jr.
  7. ^ Dale K. Myers, Secrets of a Homicide: Badge ManThe Testimony of Lee Bowers, Jr.. Retrieved 31 March 2007.
  8. ^ Earwitness Tabulation.
  9. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 19, p. 478, Decker Exhibit 5323, Dallas County Sheriff's Office record of the events surrounding the assassination (Charles Hester).
  10. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 19, p. 535, Decker Exhibit 5323, Dallas County Sheriff's Office record of the events surrounding the assassination (Sitzman).
  11. ^ Marilyn Sitzman, interview by Josiah Thompson, 1966.
  12. ^ FBI report dated January 28, 1964, of interview of F. Lee Mudd at Shreveport, La., CE 2108, Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, vol. 24, p. 538.
  13. ^ Abraham Zapruder and Beatrice Hester said they were unable to discern from which direction the shots came.
  14. ^ Dealey Plaza Earwitnesses. 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 from the grassy knoll, but that these reports were omitted from publication by the Commission, although it did include their reports of shots from the Depository building. They also reported seeing the President's head blown apart by a shot from the front.

Further reading

  • Douglass, James (2002). JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. ISBN 9781439193884.  (Best summary of not only the how of the assassination, but more important, the motive for removing JFK from office -- he had changed his mind on the Cold War and nuclear arms race).
  • Dealey, Jerry T. (2002). D in the Heart of Texas. JEDI Management Group. ISBN 0-9723913-0-4.  (includes history of Dealey Plaza).
  • Posner, Gerald (1993). Case Closed. Random House. ISBN 0-679-41825-3.  (pp. 238–242, unraveling of acoustic evidence in JFK conspiracy finding).
  • Bugliosi, Vincent (2007). Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. ISBN 978-0393045253.  (pp. 1,648. The most complete, exhaustive study of every angle and conspiracy theory about the assassination, winner of the Edgar Award True Fact/Crime category in 2007).

External links

Dealey Plaza from above. The Book Depository and north pergola (on the so-called "grassy knoll" are at photo upper center. The parking lot of the Book Depository and Museum, behind the pergola and photo-left of the depository, is behind the modern fence on the "grassy knoll."
  •, Dealey Plaza stock photography, Creative Commons licensed.
  •, : JFK Assassination Tour with color photos of Dealey Plaza.
  •, Roberdeau scaled map of Dealey Plaza.
  •, Bronson photo #5 of the eastern half of the grassy knoll during the assassination.
  •, Willis photo #5 of the western two-thirds of the grassy knoll during the assassination.
  •, Dallas to Dealey: The History of Dallas and Dealey Plaza.
  •, Dr. Thomas study of the grassy knoll shot, November 2001.
  •, Dr. Thomas study of the grassy knoll shot, September 2002.
  •, Dr. Thomas study of the grassy knoll shot, November 2002.
  •, Dr. Thomas study of the grassy knoll shot, December 2003; Court-tv rebuttal.
  •, The Man Who Named the Grassy Knoll, by Gary Mack of Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
  •, Composite panorama of Dealey Plaza, by John Costella, using Zapruder film frames, Dallas Police Department photos taken in 1963, and photos by Jack White.
  • [1], Panoramic photo shot from Zapruder's Perch.
  • [2], Panoramic photo shot from The Grassy Knoll.

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