Known for prominence in development of the oil and rail industries, and the infamous site of JFK’s assassination, Dallas is a young city that has played some notable roles in American history.
My great uncle’s side of the family has called ‘The Big D” home for more than 40 of it’s 173 years, so when they offered to tour me around historic downtown Dallas with the local scoop, I jumped at the opportunity!
Here’s what they pointed out:
Reunion Tower is the symbol of the Dallas skyline. Part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel Complex, the observation “bubble” rotates and is now home of a Wolfgang Puck restaurant after sitting vacant for a few years.
Pioneer Plaza in the middle of downtown is home to this art installation by Robert Summers, a dedication to Dallas’ role in cattle drive history. There are more than 40 bronze longhorn steers (life-size!) being driven in by three cowboys on horses, some running and others poised drinking water from the stream, with the downtown buildings skyline in the backdrop.
Dallas’ City Hall
Dallas’ City Hall was designed by I.M. Pei, a Chinese-American architect famous for modern architecture. The funky inverted pyramid was created for design and functionality — the incline gives shade to the lower floors from the hot Texas sun.
The First Neiman Marcus
The shop that birthed Dallas’ status as shopping center capital of the U.S., the world’s first Neiman Marcus is the last of the original department stores in the downtown area. Corporate HQ fills up Floor 5, and the Zodiac restaurant on Floor 6 is a popular spot for business meetings and elegant ladies who lunch.
John Neely Bryan Cabin
John Neely Bryan was a Tennessee man who discovered the Dallas area in 1839 looking for a place to build a trading post. Two years later he came back and discovered all the Native Americans had been sent away, and decided to create his own city in their place (#merica). Historians debate whether this is the actual house he lived in or just a replica, but either way a traditional 1841 log cabin is pretty cool in my book.
Big Red Museum
The Dallas County Courthouse is home to most of their historic artifacts, and of course a common field-trip spot. The building reminded me a bit of Boston’s North End, and I was definitely digging Mobil’s massive, neon, oil logo pegasus from the 1939 World Fair.
Dealey Plaza + JFK Memorial
Alright, alright, now on to the good stuff! To my non-American readers, start with this for some context on the JFK assassination and how it shook our country.
Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas certainly pays its homage to the tragic event. The 6th Floor Window of the Texas School Book Depository (now the Dallas County Administration Building), the “grassy knoll” and “X”’s in the road where each gun shot was fired, are clearly marked as pieces of the controversial storyline, while less than a block over the JFK Memorial is intended for reflection and commemoration.
On an overcast random Thursday afternoon – 51 years later – speculators were lined up on each side of the road pointing between the “X’s,” the 6th Floor Window and behind the fence of the grassy knoll, making their own conclusions as to what actually went down that day.
Texas School Book Depository
Now the Dallas County Administration Building, the 6th floor window (square window, second from the top on the left side of the building corner) is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired his shot out at President Kennedy. The 6th Floor is now a museum chronicling the assassination and remaining floors run as an active county government building.
Dealey Plaza + Grassy Knoll
“X’s” mark the spot in both places in the road where JFK’s car was shot at, from the 6th floor window and speculations from behind the fence that lightpole stands in front of. A National Landmark stone serves as a memorial head for visitors.
John F. Kennedy Memorial
The JFK Memorial went up in 1970, and the local word is that this spot has been pretty controversial in the community, some thinking the monument was not a fitting tribute. It’s been frequently tagged with offensive graffiti, and if you know to look you’ll notice sandblast marks from the cleanings.
Anddd… fun fact: DFW marks my #10/25 of the world’s largest airports! That concludes our tour of Downtown Dallas.