Dealey Plaza. You hear the name again and again every November. Maybe you never hear it any other month of the year, but the number of times you hear the words “Dealey Plaza” come up during November must surely make it one of the most familiar spoken-of places in America every year. But what do you really know about Dealey Plaza other than the fact that it is the place where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed John F. Kennedy?
Who is This Dealey Guy, Anyway?
George Bannerman Dealey is the man for whom arguably the most famous–and, inarguably, the most infamous–plaza in America is named. George Dealey was the publisher of the Dallas Morning News . The man for whom the place that witnessed one of the ugliest episodes in American history was named made his own name by taking a crusade to clean up Dallas both literally and metaphorically.
Historical Importance Before November 22, 1963
The site which is today known as Dealey Plaza is almost certainly the most famous place in Dallas to outsiders. But even before the plaza was constructed, the area was of great historical importance. If you watch the Zapruder film all the way through–and it’s less than thirty seconds long, so why not–you will see the limo carrying Kennedy head straight toward a series of overpasses. Where those triple overpasses stood then used to be a bluff that looked out over the Trinity River. In 1842 a man named John Neely Bryan built a cabin and established a camp near that bluff in a patch of land which would today fall within the area known as Dealey Plaza. That cabin and that camp would eventually go down in history as the spot where the city of Dallas was founded. If Dallas was a superhero, Dealey Plaza would not only be the province of its most legendary confrontation with a supervillain, it would also be the domain of its origin story.
Dealey Plaza was a WPA Project
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously asserted that government does not create jobs. The Works Project Administration (WPA) established as part of the New Deal under Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a government program proves Mitt Romney wrong. The government does create jobs and some of the jobs that the government created were those that went into the creation of Dealey Plaza .
Origin of the Term “Grassy Knoll”
Conspiracy theorists may differ substantially on who was involved in a fanciful plot to kill Kennedy, but they almost all agree on one thing: the second gunman was positioned in a shadowy area of Dealey Plaza known ever since as the Grassy Knoll. Which begs the question of why the that small patch of land on Dealey Plaza is known as the Grassy Knoll. Was it called that in the original planning stage? Is there some blueprint in a dusty archive somewhere that has written upon it the words “Grassy Knoll” as a featured designed element? The answer is no. And you may just be surprised by the history of the term “Grassy Knoll.” Apparently, the most infamous part of Dealey Plaza for conspiracy theorists was never known as the “Grassy Knoll” until after the assassination when UPI correspondent Merriman Smith referred to the area in that term in a wire service dispatch sent some 25 minutes after the shooting. For the full story on the origin of the term Grassy Knoll, read this fascinating piece by the curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.