Dealey Plaza: The Front Door of DallasAll Exhibits
Gateway to the City
The Triple Underpass
"The triple underpass…will be one of the most imposing sights in Dallas. It will be located at the ‘front door’ of Dallas since it will be the entrance for Highway No. 1 into the city—the most heavily traveled highway in Texas."
Dallas Morning News
August 20, 1935
A significant planning solution to alleviate the city's traffic problems came in the 1930s, a triple underpass. Constructed over Bryan’s original town site, this major new gateway afforded access to the western edge of downtown Dallas. After razing buildings, engineers sloped three major streets down to the west to converge into one. These three streets—Elm to the north, Main in the center, and Commerce on the south—pass beneath a railroad bridge that connected the rail yards on the north to Union Terminal Station two blocks to the south.
This structural triangular arrangement is known locally as the triple underpass, a civic accomplishment of engineering genius. The arched gateway, constructed of concrete with distinctive Art Deco-style detailing, opened to wide acclaim and created a commanding entrance to the city from the west and an impressive exit from the east. During the fervor of the 1936 Texas Centennial, G.B. Dealey officially dedicated the triple underpass by riding in the first car that passed through it.
"'Dealey Plaza' will remain forever as a blessing to the people of Dallas."George Waverley BriggsDallas journalist and bankerLetter to Mr. G.B. Dealey
September 21, 1935
After the triple underpass was built, the remaining green space between the streets, and to the north of Elm and the south of Commerce, was transferred to the Park Board for development as a public park. In 1935, the proposed park was called Dealey Plaza to honor Dallas civic leader G.B. Dealey for his longtime efforts to better the city. Completed in 1941, the plaza and the adjacent triple underpass became known as the “Front Door of Dallas.”
The Dealey Plaza park project, which spanned five years, was a cooperative effort of the City of Dallas, the Texas Highway Department, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Designed by Kansas City architects Hare & Hare, the landscaping and Art Deco-styled structures complemented the design details on the triple underpass.
Shortly after G.B. Dealey’s death in 1946, the Park Board paid tribute to him by officially naming the site Dealey Plaza. In 1949, a bronze statue of Dealey, sculpted by Felix de Weldon, was installed in the park.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Dealey Plaza remained not only the historic gateway to the city, but also the physical entrance to downtown. The vehicular park was an ornamental thoroughfare for traffic entering and leaving the downtown area.
Park Structures and Plantings
The placement of the Art Deco-style structures is classically symmetrical. At the north and south boundaries of the park, broad steps lead to concrete pergolas. Arched colonnades, flanked on either end by a covered shelter, define the pergolas.
Long, twin reflecting pools with fountains run north-south along the west side of Houston Street. The reflecting pools are separated by Main Street, and planter boxes and peristyles complement the pools. One of two tall concrete obelisks was replaced in 1949 with the statue of G.B. Dealey.
Original plantings included holly hedges in all straight areas around the reflecting pools and colonnades, yaupon in curved areas of the reflecting pools, and live oaks and cedar elms in the corner areas at the colonnades. Oak trees and holly hedges were planted along the outermost edges of the grassy areas below arcades.