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 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.
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
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. 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.
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 Depositor
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.
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
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