Dealey Plaza: The Front Door of Dallas

All Exhibits


Courtesy Ronald D. Rice

"Step into Dealey Plaza, and you feel you are on sacred ground. ...This is the necessary pilgrimage."

John McAdams, Ph.D.
Professor of political science, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
From his Web site, 1995-2002

There were some in Dallas who wanted to tear down the Texas School Book Depository building. After community debate, Dallas County acquired the building in 1977 with plans to locate county offices on the first through fifth floors. Because evidence was found and investigations concluded that shots were fired from a window on the building’s sixth floor, that floor was preserved. Beginning in 1977, the Dallas County Historical Commission initiated a plan to interpret the site. As plans progressed, the Dallas County Historical Foundation was incorporated in 1983 to oversee the completion of the project. In 1989, The Sixth Floor Exhibit opened to the public to help visitors find meaning in the tragic event.

Three decades after the assassination, in October 1993, the Secretary of the Interior designated Dealey Plaza a National Historic Landmark District. This new historic status acknowledged that the spot where John F. Kennedy died was important in United States history.

Official dedication ceremonies were held on November 22, 1993, the thirtieth anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Thousands gathered at the site. Nellie Connally dedicated the bronze landmark plaque “to future generations of Americans, with the hope that the legacy of John F. Kennedy will inspire them to reach for greatness in their own lives.” Since then, Dealey Plaza has become a new source of pride for the city and serves just as G.B. Dealey envisioned it, as the "Front Door of Dallas."

Oliver Stone’s JFK

Dealey Plaza and the assassination story again took headlines in 1991 when Hollywood producer Oliver Stone brought his crew to Dallas to film JFK, starring Kevin Costner. JFK was Stone’s personal interpretation of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy and focused on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s probe into the assassination. For the filming, Hollywood prop masters restored much of Dealey Plaza to its 1963 appearance.

Restoration included painting and constructing facades on the former Texas School Book Depository building, fabricating railroad tracks, pruning trees and bushes to their 1963 size, and mounting 1963-style traffic signs at their original locations. This event brought renewed interest to the site for many local people; some even served as extras.