Dealey Plaza Revisited
A web-only companion to the November 1998 issue, featuring the assassination of President Kennedy.
Although the assassination of President John F. Kennedy occurred 33 years ago, the controversy over the events surrounding the assassination has never died down. On this anniversary we visited the crucial sites connected with the assassination, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s boarding house on West Beckley to the site of the infamous backyard photographs. Our tour will provide you with photographs and descriptions of these sites, along with comments from four assassination experts about the importance of events that took place at these sites.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived at Dallas’ Love Field from Fort Worth at 11:37 in the morning. He was accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and Texas governor and Mrs. John Connally. They were in Dallas as part of a tour for the 1964 Presidential campaign. The motorcade left Love Field and passed through downtown Dallas on Main Street, then turned north onto Houston Street (moving against the normal direction of traffic—the street had been blocked off) for one block. From Houston Street, the motorcade turned left onto Elm Street and moved towards the triple underpass. The entourage was on its way to the Trade Mart north of the central business district for a sold-out luncheon. At 12:30, as the open limousine carrying the Kennedys and the Connallys moved west on Elm past Dealey Plaza, shots rang out. They were fired at the motorcade on Elm Street, starting just past the oak tree on the north side of Elm and stopping before the limousine reached the second lamp post on the north side of the street. Both the President and the Governor were wounded. The limousine picked up speed and raced to the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room where Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00.
Police at Dealey questioned eye witnesses and immediately began searching the Texas School Book Depository, a textbook distribution facility facing Dealey Plaza at 411 Elm. They also searched the rail yard in back of the pergola on Dealey Plaza, and a fenced area north of Elm and west of the Depository later known as the grassy knoll (the grassy knoll is on the north side of Elm Street between the parking lots for the former School Book Depository and triple underpass, in front of and to the west of the Bryan Colonnade). No evidence was found. At 1:12, after a search of the School Book Depository, police discovered a barricade of boxes, three spent bullet cartridges, and a paper bag in the southeast corner window area on the sixth floor. Ten minutes later, they found a rifle betweeen boxes near the six floor staircase. This evidence, along with finger and palm prints on some of the boxes, was later linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, an order clerk who had begun work at the depository October 15, 1963.
Oswald had been seen on the sixth floor about 35 minutes before the motorcade passed the building. He had also been seen in the second-floor lunchroom about two minutes after the shooting. Police investigators had released him and Oswald left the building through the front door.
At 1:18, a call came in on the police radio that Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippit had been shot at Tenth and Patton in the Oak Cliff section of town. Oswald was seen a few minutes later at the Hardy Shoe Store a few blocks away from the Tippit shooting. The witness, Johnny Brewer, led police to the Texas Theater where Oswald was arrested at 1:50. He was linked to both the Kennedy assassination and to the Tippit murder.
On November 24, as Oswald was being transferred from the City Jail to the County Jail, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a local night club owner. (Ruby was convicted and sentenced to death in March 1964, but the verdict was overturned in the fall of 1966. While awaiting a second trial, Ruby died of cancer at Parkland Hospital in January 1967.)
On November 29, 1963, President Johnson established a commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. The Warren Commission made its findings public on September 24, 1964—it concluded that Oswald acted alone when he killed the President. Discrepancies in the Warren Report led to numerous subsequent official and unofficial investigations in succeeding years.
On January 2, 1979, the House of Representative’s Select Committee on Assassinations supported the Warren panel’s conclusion that Oswald fired the fatal shots. But, the committee also found that, based on audio recordings of the shooting taken from police radios at the time of the assassination, that a second gunman had fired at the motorcade from the grassy knoll. The House Select Committee concluded that President Kennedy “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
These findings were later repudiated by the FBI, and in 1988 the Justice Department formally closed the investigation into the assassination, concluding that there was no “persuasive evidence” of conspiracy.
214 W. Neeley, Oak Cliff
The house where the “backyard photos” of Oswald were taken.
This two-story blue wood frame structure is in an advanced state of disrepair: windows are broken out and the porch has been removed. The neighborhood is questionable and is not an area that welcomes tourists—if you decide to drive by, don’t linger. Note also that the only number on the house is 212 (214 was the address of the upstairs apartment). Although the authenticity of the photographs has long been disputed, the location wasn’t. The back staircase railing, prominent in the background of the Oswald photo, is still intact and recognizable.
DAVE PERRY: My question about the fakes is, What would have been the purpose of making fakes? Marina had no reason to lie about the photos, but it was hard to know what she really believed because she changed her mind constantly.
JIM MARRS: I could convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that these photographs are fakes. We don’t know for certain who made them, but they were made to incriminate Oswald. The backgrounds are identical in each photo. Also Marina originally said she had only taken one, but there were four versions. Where did they all come from?
GARY MACK: If the photo had been faked in an effort to incriminate Oswald, then one would have expected it to have been released the moment Oswald died. The Dallas Police never released the photos; they only came to light when an unofficial copy was published three months later.
GERALD POSNER: The tests show that these photos are real, and the best witness available—Marina Oswald—says she took them and that Oswald posed for them. That seems to settle the issue.
1312 1/2 Commerce
The site of the Carousel Club, now demolished.
JIM MARRS: Everybody went to the Carousel Club—it was THE after-hours place in Dallas. Students, attorneys, police officers all mingled here for what was basically the last vestiges of vaudeville. There would be a singer, followed by a ventriloquist, a stripper, and then a comedian. The Carousel Club was where the action was in 1963.
223 S. Ewing
The site of Jack Ruby’s apartment. The building was torn down and replaced by a Circle Inn which has now been there long enough that the building has entered into decline and the swimming pool has been filled in with concrete. The neighborhood is not one where curiosity-seekers should wander, and since the apartment is gone there is nothing worth risking life and limb to see.
JIM MARRS: After Ruby shot Oswald, a group of reporters went to Ruby’s apartment and rummaged around. A significant number of those people later died under mysterious circumstances.
GARY MACK: Several reporters went to Ruby’s apartment after he shot Oswald and were let in by the manager. It is true that a couple of the reporters later died under strange circumstances.
Sixth Floor Window
Texas School Book Depository (now called the Dallas County Administration Building), Elm and Houston.
Sixth Floor Window, Texas School Book Depository.
Located in the Sixth Floor Museum. Also called the Sniper’s Nest, the window is visible from the street—it is the last window on the right on the building’s sixth floor side facing what is now Dealey Plaza. Your view of the window is actually better from the street since it is glassed off and inaccessible to the public from the inside. Boxes of books are still stacked around the window as they were on November 22, 1963.
JIM MARRS: Nobody actually saw anybody fire a rifle out of the School Depository window, and they were never able to place Oswald in that window. He had been encountered less than 90 seconds later in the stairs calmly holding a Coke. He would have had to run down the stairs, slamming heavy fire doors behind him (which nobody heard), get change and then get a Coke out of the machine, and then stand there and hold it—all in less than a minute and a half. The fact that they found his fingerprints on the boxes by the windows means nothing since he was hired to move them. There were other fingerprints on those boxes that were never identified. The plexiglassed area around the sniper’s nest window now prevents you from noticing that a shot from that window would be very difficult or impossible to make, especially since that big tree completely impedes the view.
GERALD POSNER: The sniper’s nest is the nexus of the murder day. It was where Oswald could hide away and shoot at the motorcade and where he could get in and shoot one deadly shot out of three. He evaded detection here. It was the ideal sniper’s nest. Oswald never left the room that morning. The FBI reconstructed the descent from the sixth floor—and measured the time it took to descend by walking, not running—and there was more than enough time left to reach the first floor.
On the North side of Elm, in Dealey Plaza the pergola afforded a good view of the presidential motorcade. Abraham Zapruder stood on a low column of the pergola and took the now-famous home movie of the motorcade. This is his view. This is also the view from the acoustic position, slightly behind where Zapruder stood. The plaque was placed on the line of sight between Zapruder and the president at the time of the shooting.
The Two Shooters’ Positions
On the north side of the picket fence, known as the Badge-man Position; also on the north side of the fence, known as the Acoustic Position.
Badge-man Position: Located 15 feet north of the corner of the picket fence on the parking lot side of the fence. Bystander Mary Moorman snapped a Polaroid of the president just as he was shot. The photograph has been blown up and examined many times. It wasn’t until 1982 that Gary Mack (at the time the director of the photographic archives for KXAS television station and now the archivist of the Sixth Floor Museum) noticed that there appeared to be a uniformed figure with certain highlights consistent with a police uniform standing behind the fence. Mack’s detractors say that what appears to be a badge is actually leaves from nearby trees. The Warren Commission never looked at the photograph during its investigation of the assassination.
DAVE PERRY: I think it is a very interesting image.
GARY MACK All I’ve tried to do is bring it to the attention of scientists. I noticed something that others had not noticed.
JIM MARRS: The photo clearly seems to be showing a man wearing a dark shirt and a dark shining object on his chest. Prime candidate for the grassy knoll shooter.
GERALD POSNER: I never cease to be amazed at how people are willing to abandon common sense—this photograph has been blown up so many times, it is easy to imagine seeing almost anything in those dots. In the regular photo you can see nothing. This location is fairly exposed and to the right of Zapruder who was standing there taking his movie, and yet no one saw anyone with a badge or a gun. How could they not see a shooter in this position?
The Acoustic Position: Also behind the picket fence between the pergola and the parking lot about eight feet west of the corner of the fence. This is the second gunman position, allegedly supported by witnesses saying that they saw a “puff of smoke” arising from this area and from a 1979 determination (discounted by the FBI in 1980) by the House Select Committee which examined ballistic and acoustical analyses—that there was a 95% probability of a second gunman.
DAVE PERRY: There is enough contradictory evidence in the findings to say that there was a basis for concluding there was a second gunman. Additionally, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reached that very conclusion.
GARY MACK In 1963, all police cars had radios and communications were recorded on a Dictabelt machine as a record of what was said during police transactions. No one had thought to check those tapes for gunshot sounds. When I moved here in 1976, I located the tapes from November 22, 1963 and I borrowed them. What I heard on the tapes sounded like there were at least four shots.
JIM MARRS: Two separate sets of acoustic scientists came up with a near-hundred percent probability that there was another shooter. There are as many as ten sounds on the tape that they couldn’t rule out as being gunfire. This is where the government’s cover-up becomes obfuscation—they have confused the facts to the point where people can’t understand the evidence that is clearly out there.
GERALD POSNER This is a real blunder by the House Select Committee. They were running out of money and had to end their review of the acoustical question quickly. The open police microphone detected four impulses that were mistakenly thought to be gunshots, but it was discovered that those sounds came a minute after the assassination. The FBI discredited the House Select Committee’s findings three years later.
Railroad Switching Tower
Railroad Switching Tower
A two-story structure in the the parking lot west of the TSBD. Railroad worker Lee Bowers testified before the Warren Commission that something caught his eye back there. Bowers was one of the many eye witnesses to the assassination who later died in what conspiracy theorists claim were mysterious circumstances.
DAVE PERRY: Bowers had allergies and had taken antihistimines. He fell asleep while driving home one night and drove into a ditch.
GARY MACK Bowers didn’t say there was anything suspicious about the two guys behind the fence. He never hinted, even to his family, that a shot came from there. But if there were two guys there, they never came forward and no one seems to know who these guys where. It was not a good vantage point to see the motorcade.
JIM MARRS: Lee Bowers is a key witness—he saw cars with out-of-state license plates trolling the area, he saw a man in uniform by the fence. He saw somebody fire. Bowers died in a one-car crash early in the morning—it was a suspicious death, and a convenient one.
GERALD POSNER There was a steam pipe neat the picket fence where Bowers saw the puff of smoke. No one every mentioned the smoke was from a gun; it was later assumed it was gun smoke, but smoke from a gun doesn’t linger in the air the way the smoke Bowers described did.
Curb at Dealey Plaza
23 feet and 4 inches from the Triple Underpass on the south side of Main Street. The curb was hit by the errant second gunshot and debris hit bystander James Tague in the face. The curb section has long since been replaced, but the repaired area is still visible.
GARY MACK The stray shot hitting the curb is one of the reasons for the single bullet theory. If there had been an organized plot to kill the president with two sharpshooters, they would have been marksmen who wouldn’t miss their target. Since Oswald wasn’t supposed to be a great shot, the stray bullet supports the theory that this is one of his shots that missed.
JIM MARRS: The stray bullet supports the multiple gunshot theory. It is preposterous that a third shot would hit 30 feet from its target after hitting the target twice. This is the shot that probably came from the School Depository window, but it was to throw police off.
GERALD POSNER I view the shot that hit the curb as evidence of the first very difficult shot that misses its target. The FBI did a very bad job of investigating this evidence, and didn’t discover it until later. The only cover-up here was the FBI trying to hide the evidence of their own incompetence.
Parkland Hospital Emergency Room
Parkland Hospital Emergency Room
President Kennedy was rushed to the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room after he was shot. Although newer buildings now flank the Emergency Room entrance and shield it from the street, the entrance itself has never been refurbished or remodeled. It looks as it did in 1963.
Love Air Field
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One at Love Field, but a plaque commemorating the ceremony can be found on a granite pillar on the right side of the front entrance to Love Field, just inside the double doors from the parking lot.
1026 N. Beckley
Lee Harvey Oswald’s boarding house.
After Kennedy was assassinated, the School Book Depository was sealed off. Since Oswald had already been interrogated, he went home. On the way Oswald allegedly got on a city bus that headed back towards Dealey Plaza. He supposedly jumped off the bus and caught a cab at the Greyhound Bus Station that dropped him off at his boarding house on N. Beckley. According to the story, Oswald went inside and got a pistol and hid it inside his jacket. He went to the bus stop about fifty yards west of the house and caught a bus at 1 P.M. that was heading towards Jefferson Street nine-tenths of a mile south.
DAVE PERRY: There has never been any evidence to show that Oswald boarded that bus.
GARY MACK The only witness who saw Oswald saw him standing at the bus stop that goes back into town.
JIM MARRS: Oswald rushed in to the boarding house about 1 P.M. A few minutes later, according to the landlady, a police car stops by, beeps twice, and Oswald heads out. She saw him standing on the corner.
GERALD POSNER Where is the evidence?
Tenth and Patton
Site of Officer Tippit’s Shooting
The houses once standing on the corner have been demolished.
DAVE PERRY: There has always been a question about why Tippit was in this area which was five miles from his patrol area. Some of the neighbors had seen him often and thought he lived in the neighborhood. In any case, the married Tippit was a regular visitor in the area, possibly to a married girlfriend. There are too many other people besides Oswald who might have wanted to kill Tippit.
Although Dallas police recorded the official time of Tippit’s death as 1:16, witnesses said the fatal shooting took place at 1:07. Time had been lost when two bystanders had tried to call in on the patrol car’s radio; one had failed, but the second bystander succeeded. Another eye witness said the time was 1:13, but the Warren Commission decided his watch was slow.
No witness identified Oswald as the assailant. Later, a jacket was found behind Brock’s gas station around the corner. It was identified as Oswald’s jacket, but laundry tags inside the jacket could never be traced. It was bogus evidence.
GARY MACK It is nine-tenths of a mile to Tenth and Patton from Oswald’s boarding house. He couldn’t have made it there and shot Tippit in that brief time span.
JIM MARRS: No way could he have gotten to Tenth and Patton in that time frame. Whoever shot Tippit wanted to make sure he was dead—they stood there after they had shot him and shot him again in the head. They unloaded the gun and left shell casings. This is not the behavior of sombody who is shooting to get away—this is an execution.
GERALD POSNER One of the horrendous parts of this case was that there was a second victim that everyone forgets. Other policemen were stopping people who fit the description of the assassin. Tippit was on the edge of his patrol area and may have been following Oswald. The autopsy doesn’t say that he was shot in the head.
213 W. Jefferson
Hardy’s Shoe Store
After the shooting at Tenth and Patton, Oswald allegedly ducked into this shoe store and was spotted by shoe salesman Johnny Brewer. Brewer then followed Oswald to the Texas Theater and told the ticket taker to call the police.
GARY MACK Whoever stopped at Hardy Shoe Store looked unnecessarily distraught.
JIM MARRS: There are three witnesses who place Oswald inside the Texas Theater at the time Tippit was shot. The concessionaire said he had sold Oswald popcorn at about 1. Johnny Brewer followed somebody who was acting very, very suspicious. That’s how the police got drawn to the theater.
GERALD POSNER One of the great twists of fate is that Oswald sought shelter here and was spotted.
231 W. Jefferson; Texas Theater
Texas Theater, where Oswald was captured.
The police converged on the theater, stopped the movie and turned on the lights. They stood on the stage and asked Brewer to identify the man he saw in the shoe store. He picked out Oswald who gave up after a struggle with the police.
GARY MACK The police arrested someone else that day and a witness saw him taken out the back of the Texas Theater. But there are no records of any other arrests except Oswald’s on November 22.
JIM MARRS: I think Oswald climbed into the cop car and they drove him to the Theater. It was a set-up—obviously Oswald was told to go there and another person was used to lure the police to the theater.
GERALD POSNER The irony is that Oswald is a man who failed at everything he tried. The only thing he manages to pull off, no one gives him any credit for. The Dallas police should have received accolades for breaking this case in a matter of hours, and yet they were never given credit either.
2030 Main Street
Site where the Western Union office once stood.
The site of the Western Union office where Ruby supposedly wired a moneygram to the Fort Worth stripper Little Lynn. Don’t be confused by the Western Union office across the street; sightseers who don’t know that the office moved across the street often stand in front of the wrong building at 2121 Main.
DAVE PERRY: The argument has always been that Ruby planned to kill Oswald, but he claimed that he went to City Hall (a half block from the Western Union office) because he noticed a commotion. Why would he have stopped first to wire money to stripper Little Lynn and why would he have left his beloved dachsund Sheba in the car unless his actions were entirely unpremeditated?
GARY MACK SAYS: Ruby’s Mafia connection was documented by the Warren Commission, but that does not mean the mob was involved in Kennedy’s death. Those who knew Ruby testified that he had a hot temper and would do things on the spur of the moment.
JIM MARRS: Just turn those arguments around. Oswald was supposed to be transferred at 10 in the morning, but he still hadn’t left by 11:30. The police didn’t transfer him until Ruby was in position and Ruby was dragging his heels because he was trying to get out of it.
GERALD POSNER Oswald was late being transferred to the county jail because he wanted to change shirts. The only way there could be a conspiracy here is that he was in a conspiracy to kill himself and purposely delayed his transfer so that Ruby could get to the city jail in time to kill him.
2001 Commerce: City Hall
City Hall, where Ruby shot Oswald.
City Hall, where Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. The site of the Western Union office where Ruby supposedly wired a moneygram to the Fort Worth stripper Little Lynn. This is a site that rates high for sixties’ ambience—virtually nothing has changed in this musty, down-at-the-heels city building since that November day. The basement entrance to the ramp where police cars were waiting to transport Oswald to the county jail (which overlooks Dealey Plaza) is still accessible from inside the building if you act like you know where you are going. (Take the stairs at the left of the lobby to the basement and proceed down the hall to the glass doors, the only addition since the murder.)
JIM MARRS: Ruby was the mob’s guy on the scene. He was the fixer. He knew half the police department and the District Attorney because they all went to his club and got free drinks. Ruby had run messages for Al Capone in Chicago when he was a kid. He was told by the mob that he had to shoot Oswald.
GERALD POSNER Ruby was at the Friday night press conference and could have killed Oswald then; photos of the occasion show Ruby had a gun tucked into his waistband at the time. If he was part of a conspiracy, why did he wait so long to kill Oswald?
Lee Harvey Oswald grave site
Rose Hill Cemetery, Fort Worth. This grave is unmarked because vandals kept stealing the headstone. The only marker now is a flat gravestone; the grave is difficult to find and the cemetery will not direct tourists to the site.
JIM MARRS: When Oswald’s body was exhumed, the funeral home said that this wasn’t the same body they had buried. The concrete vault had been shattered and the body, which had been over-embalmed by the funeral home to preserve it, was decomposed.
GERALD POSNER This is a really wild theory that shows there is no convincing a certain level of conspiracy enthusiast.
• John F. Kennedy—President of the United States
• Lee Harvey Oswald—clerk at the Texas School Book Depository who was accused of killing Kennedy
• Jack Ruby—Dallas nightclub owner who shot Oswald
• Officer J.D. Tippit—a Dallas patrolman who was shot less than an hour after Kennedy was shot. Oswald was accused of the murder.
• Abraham Zapruder—bystander on the grassy knoll who was filming the motorcade as it passed in front of Dealey Plaza
• Earl Warren—Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and head of the Warren Commission which was established to report on the assassination.
• Little Lynn—the Fort Worth stripper to whom Ruby reportedly sent a moneygram shortly before he shot Oswald.
• Johnny Brewer—a shoe salesman at Hardy Shoe Store who led police to Oswald in the Texas Theater.
• Lee Bowers—a worker in the rail yard behind the grassy knoll. Claimed he saw a “puff of smoke” near the picket fence after Kennedy was shot.