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What Is Dealey Plaza?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dealey Plaza is an area in the American city of Dallas, Texas, that became famous as the location in which American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The area itself has become part of the historic district within the city, declared a historic site and fairly well-preserved since the assassination in 1963. Though there have been some changes to the area, it primarily remains similar in appearance to how it looked at the time of President Kennedy’s death. Dealey Plaza is often cited and studied by those interested in the assassination and is viewed as a crime scene by those pursuing the forensic aspects of the president’s death.

Named after newspaperman George Dealey, Dealey Plaza was fairly unknown outside of Dallas prior to 1963. The area was developed using Works Progress Administration (WPA) funding in 1940 on the west side of Dallas’s downtown district. Three streets converge in Dealey Plaza: Elm Street, Main Street, and Commerce Street at the point of a freeway underpass. The actual plaza itself essentially consists of a small triangular area, two sides of which consist of Elm Street and Main Street meeting at one corner, and the other side consisting of Houston Street.

Within the triangle formed by these streets at Dealey Plaza is a large grassy area, with various tall buildings lining the streets around the plaza and a grassy area along Elm Street as it nears the “triple underpass” where the three streets converge. This grassy area has become referred to as the “grassy knoll” and numerous conspiracy theories state that a second assassin may have been positioned behind a fence at the back of this area. The official report regarding the assassination of President Kennedy indicates that the lone assassin, presumed to be Lee Harvey Oswald, was positioned on the sixth floor of a building that was then used as a Texas School Book Depository. This building is now a museum, located near the corner of Elm and Houston streets.

Dealey Plaza was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993, 30 years after the assassination of President Kennedy, and has been largely preserved since 1963. Though some geographic features have changed, such as plants removed or added and light posts moved, the buildings and general terrain of Dealey Plaza have remained the same. This allows individuals studying the assassination to go to the plaza and see the scene firsthand. Efforts have been undertaken to return the region to exactly how it looked in 1963, and numerous digital models of the plaza have been created as well.

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