Dallas sites tied to JFK’s killing still resonate

Last modified: 11/17/2013 1:17:01 AM
A 1930s-era movie theater. A county hospital. An old brick rooming house. A bustling airport.

Sites associated with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, are scattered throughout Dallas and beyond.

“These were just ordinary places – an airport, a hospital, a movie theater, a house, city streets – that were all of a sudden, literally in a blink of an eye, catapulted into this national spotlight,” said Mark Doty, historic preservation officer.

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the murder, the places connected to Kennedy’s final hours – and to his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald – still resonate. “I like to think of it as ordinary places with extraordinary stories,” said city archivist John Slate.

“People really want to walk history, touch history, see history. Good history or bad, people want to see it. That’s why walking down 10th and Patton streets (where Oswald shot a police officer) is a way of getting close to history,” Slate said.

Dallas Love Field

The president and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy landed at Dallas Love Field at 11:37 a.m. They greeted those waiting at the airport, then headed downtown with their motorcade. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m. At 2:38 p.m., Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Force One as it sat on the Love Field tarmac.

A marker on the road to the terminal notes the airport’s place in history, and a recent renovation added a window with a view of where Air Force One was parked that day. Plans are under way to place markers at the window and on the tarmac. An old tower and a world map on the lobby floor are among the few landmarks that remain from how the airport looked in the early 1960s.

The Sixth Floor Museum

Shots rang out as Kennedy’s motorcade passed by the Texas School Book Depository building while traveling down Elm Street, through Dealey Plaza, a grassy area marking Dallas’s birthplace in 1841. Oswald worked at the book depository and shot Kennedy from a sixth floor window there. The site instantly became a pilgrimage point, but the fate of the building remained uncertain for years.

Eventually, the county bought the building and used the first five floors for office space. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza – jfk.org – which tells the story of Kennedy’s life and death, opened as an exhibit on the sixth floor in 1989.

It’s now a major tourist destination with 350,000 visitors expected this year.

Parkland Memorial Hospital

The president’s limousine sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital. He was taken to Trauma Room 1.

The room no longer exists, but a plaque in what is now radiology marks its location. (The contents of the room are stored at a National Archives facility in Kansas.)

Oswald Rooming House

On Oct. 14, 1963, the day before Oswald was hired at the school book depository, he rented a room for $8 a week from Gladys Johnson in her brick rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley Ave., in the Oak Cliff area southwest of downtown. He stayed there weeknights, in a nook with just enough space for a twin bed. He visited his wife on weekends in suburban Irving, where she lived with a friend, Ruth Paine.

The rooming house was eventually passed down to Johnson’s granddaughter, Patricia Hall, who put it up for sale for $500,000 this year. Her grandmother and her mother refused to let tourists in, but Hall offers tours – theoswaldhouse.com.

Shooting of policeman

A marker went up last year at 10th Street and Patton Avenue, near the site where police Officer J.D. Tippit was killed. Tippit was on patrol about 45 minutes after JFK was shot when he spotted a man who resembled the vague description of the assassination suspect.

When Tippit got out of his car, Oswald fired, killing him instantly.


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