In Dallas you can visit a place where the course of history was changed forever. The landmarks at Dealey Plaza, like the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll and Elm Street as it bends down to the railroad tracks, would be unremarkable were it not for the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Dealey Plaza is a city park in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas. It is sometimes called the “birthplace of Dallas”. It was also the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963; 30 minutes after the shooting, Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Hailed as “The Front Door of Dallas,” Dealey Plaza served as the major gateway to the city from the west and, equally important, as a symbol of civic pride. In November 1963, that focus changed when President Kennedy was assassinated in the heart of the plaza.
The cityscape at Dealey Plaza is mostly unchanged, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. It’s hard not to be moved looking up at the corner of the sixth floor window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his three shots, seeing the X that marks the spot where JFK was struck by the fatal second bullet and standing on the bank from which Abraham Zapruder took his famous footage. 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. Built in 1890, Dealey Plaza was the western gateway to downtown, often called the “birthplace of Dallas” or “the front door of Dallas.” But Dealey Plaza’s roots go back even further to the 1840s. That’s when John Neely Bryan picked the best spot along the Trinity River for a trading post. It eventually became a town charter. And by 1872, Dallas had one of the first railroad crossings in the country. Since it’s so close to downtown and such a central part of Dallas history, Dealey Plaza is definitely worth a visit. There are informational plaques and even a map at various spots around the plaza, making a walking tour here a natural choice.
Nearly a century later, President John F Kennedy was assassinated from within yards of the very spot of this former trading post. Another 30 years later, Dealey Plaza became a national historic landmark district to preserve the buildings, structures, and streets associated with these events. The Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District in Dallas might be most associated with the JFK assassination, but there’s a lot more history here than what happened in 1963. It’s also the city’s only national historic district and one of only five such districts in the state.
Located just a few blocks from downtown and easily walkable, the district is a great addition to your Dallas city tour. In this article, I’ll share why it’s called Dealey Plaza, perfect spots for a photo opportunity, and why it is the most visited heritage site in Dallas. Today, Dealey Plaza is a popular tourist attraction for travelers exploring Dallas. There are quite a few buildings and sites included in the district, but it’s not too large, making it a perfect fit for a walking tour. Dealey Plaza is in the West End area of Dallas, but it’s only a few blocks down Main Street to get to the heart of downtown Dallas. The famous Giant Eyeball art piece, for example, is only a half mile away, and you can get to another popular downtown attraction, Thanks-Giving Square, with just a 15-minute walk.