For me, Dallas has always been synonymous with the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I have been to Dallas numerous times then. But never have I been able or ready to visit the site of his final day, Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Today might be that day that I visit, for reasons that I do not know. But I know it cannot compare to the horror that unfolded for people standing on the route of the motorcade.
Today, there is a museum on the site of the Texas School Book Depository. It is called The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The Museum chronicles the Assassination itself, and the legacy of John F. Kennedy, our 34th President. The address is 411 Elm Street. The Museum is located on the 6th and 7th Floors.
The Museum brochure asks or states, “See How History Changed in a Split Second”. Another part of the brochure asks, “Was it as simple as one man crouching behind a stack of books?”
The building itself was built in 1901 at the corner of Houston and Elm Streets. At the time of the assassination, it was known as the Texas School Book Depository, operated by a private firm that stocked and distributed books to public schools in north Texas and parts of Oklahoma. One thing I did not know, was the Lee Harvey Oswald, the most likely assassin, was an employee of the Book Depository.
After the company moved out in 1970, many hoped the building would be demolished. But Dallas County purchased the building, with the plan to place administrative offices on the first five floors. The top two floors, including the infamous sixth floor, remained empty. Finally, on President’s Day in 1989, the Sixth Floor Museum opened in response to many visitors to the building. Two key areas on the Sixth Floor have been restored to their 1963 appearance.
Then, on President’s Day in 2002, the Seventh Floor gallery was opened by the Museum. This space provided another 5500 square feet of space for exhibits, and special events. In 2010, a Reading Room was opened. It overlooks Dealey Plaza directly. There is also a Museum store and Café across the street from the Museum.
One block east of Dealey Plaza is the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza, opened in June, 1970. The Memorial is a roofless room, called a cenotaph, designed by architect Philip Johnson. The space was originally intended for reflection and remembrance. As more visitors came to the Memorial, it became clear that an exhibit was needed to deal with the details of the tragic events. Thus, the Museum at Dealey was bourne of necessity.
So, how will I feel? This is where the news of November 22 came from. I was sitting in the Music Room in high school, playing with the band. I was about 1300 miles away, yet, all of us were right here. This was the center of our universe for a day. A day grew into a lifetime.