Friday, November 8, 2013

Totally Texas -- JFK sites in Dallas, 50 years later

While lurking around the entrance to the parking garage of the former Dallas police headquarters, I met a friend from church coming out. She was with a group tour, she said, of sites associated with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The underground parking garage was where Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Kennedy’s presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Next stop on my friend’s tour was Texas Theatre, the site of Oswald’s arrest. (And incidentally, the site I had just come from.) My friend’s tour group had a comfortable-looking motor coach waiting at the corner. But with the help of this post, you can arrange your own tour of major sites.

It’s slightly less than a mile from the site of Kennedy’s death to that of Oswald’s, for those who want to make the trip on foot. You may even find walking the easiest method if you’re coming into Dallas for the city’s 50th anniversary commemoration November 22.

The parking garage is at 2014 Main Street, the 1950’s era brick annex to the city’s old Beaux Arts-style Municipal Building. The complex, which in 1963 housed the Dallas police headquarters where Oswald was interrogated, is across the street from Main Street Garden Park. Most days, all you’ll be able to see of the site of Oswald’s shooting is a barred overhead gate. However, as I learned from my friend’s experience, the city allows tours. Call 214-670-3000 and ask for Captain Fred Gonzales to arrange a tour. Metered streetside parking is available around the Municipal Building and Main Street Garden. I’m using a picture of the garage’s interior on the assurance of the police officer aiding my friend’s tour that the banal signage dates from the era (and was probably Oswald’s last conscious sight.)

Walking west on Main Street will take you along the major portion of Kennedy’s motorcade through downtown Dallas. Don’t bother detouring down Commerce Street, which runs parallel to Main, hoping to see Ruby’s Carousel Club nightclub, which once adorned its 1312 ½ Commerce Street site with pictures of the scantily-clad dancers who entertained inside. It was torn down decades ago to make room for the pleasant but not terribly memorable AT&T Plaza. For video (perhaps best not viewed with your kids) of what the sinny-side of downtown Dallas looked like in 1963, see
www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDO8ml-H94U/.

Continuing on Main Street, you’ll come to Dallas’ memorial to Kennedy, the enormous Philip Johnson-designed marble cenotaph at 646 Main Street. Turn right on Houston Street, then left on Elm Street past the former Texas School Book Depository, 411 Elm Street, whose sixth floor corner window is believed to have been Oswald’s sniper seat. The red brick building now houses the Sixth Floor Museum, dedicated to the tragedy. For more about the museum and its programs, see
www.jfk.org/.

Look west from Dealey Plaza park across the street from the museum to see the small hill--“the grassy knoll”-- believed by some to have been the hiding place for a second shooter and the triple underpass onto Stemmons Freeway (I-35E), where the motorcade took on its dash to Parkland Hospital, 5201 Harry Hines Blvd., in the vain hope the president’s life could be saved. Two days later, Oswald, dying from Ruby’s bullets, would be taken to Parkland as well. A plaque inside the hospital now commemorates both victims, and there are plans for a JFK memorial garden as the hospital undergoes major renovation.

On Dallas' south side is the site of Oswald’s arrest, the Texas Theatre, 231 West Jefferson Blvd. Oswald was found in the movie theater on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, after shooting local beat officer, J.D. Tippit. (For help locating the graves of Tippit and Oswald, see “Dallas dead, the famed & the infamous,” October 25, 2013, at this site.) The movie theater barely escaped the Carousel Club’s fate, first losing its gaudy fa├žade to a stucco re-design, then standing vacant for several years. It’s back in business as a movie theater and event venue, and will premiere the documentary “Capturing Oswald” Monday, November 11. For more about its history, see
http://thetexastheatre.com/.

No comments:

Post a Comment