Dealey Plaza Needs Another Makeover. Let's Look at the Proposed Plan For Phase Two.

1939DealeyPlazaRendering.JPG
Click to embiggen the original 1939 rendering for Dealey Plaza, one of many historical gems contained in the council briefing package
Remember how offended everyone got when Los Angeles-based photographer Donald Barnat penned his dispatch from Dealey Plaza back in March? Sure you do. Wrote Barnat, who'd been here during the Super Bowl, "The place is in such a miserable state of disrepair that it amounts to a disgrace for the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the United States of America." At which point everyone told him to stick it where the California sun don't shine.

DealeyPlazaPergola.jpg
Only, you see, Dealey Plaza is a mess -- a paint-peeling, graffiti-covered, falling-apart mess. Which is why tomorrow the city council's Quality of Life Committee will be treated to this very cool historical-photo slide show by Good Fulton & Farrell's Jonathan Rollins, who will then spell out what needs to be done in the second phase of Dealey Plaza renovations. And by second phase I mean the stuff that needs to be done following the 2008 clean-up wherein the city spent 'round $900,000 to spruce up the sidewalks around the fountains, which also got a tending-to.

Three years ago the north and south plaza pergolas didn't get touched; neither did the pavement in and around the pavilions. The city also wants to plant new way-finding signs, along with some interpretative histories-of, and make the thing ADA-compliant, which it ain't. Because, remember, we're but two years from the 50th anniversary. And as one Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum dweller pointed out back in March, "I'm sure all the usual conspiracy junkies will be there in force, but there will also be more national attention due to the landmark anniversary. I do think Dallas ought to show more respect for the site and finish the job of sprucing it up."

That's the plan -- at a cost of around anywhere from $1 to $2 million, depending on how extensive the redo, and, yes, those fountains could use another touch-up. (That's not counting the additional $1.5 mil needed for further renovations.) Where's the money coming from? Where it always comes from: magic. Or we'll just find out tomorrow.
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21 comments
Donald Barnat
Donald Barnat

First, I just want to say that the people we met in Dallas this past February were the nicest, sweetest people I'd ever encountered outside of the famously sweet people of Brazil. Certainly they were the nicest Americans I'd ever met. 

Yes. It's me. lol! 

As far as the kerfuffle that darned James Wolcott over at Vanity Fair started by reposting my photo essay and linking to it in his blog, I'm sorry if my thoughts insulted people in Dallas who read them through local eyes. I really am. I'm not a local and I'm looking at the place of President Kennedy's assassination with a very non-local perspective. 

I think, however, that some of the comments beneath Mr. Wilonsky's original heads-up here linking to Wolcott's blog demonstrate that there is indeed an ideological hostility, as I suggested in my article, on the part of Texas Republicans or conservatives, to the idea of even maintaining Dealey Plaza let alone properly memorializing as the place where a Democratic president was killed. 

There can't be any question of the existence of that mindset in Dallas and Texas or that it is and will maybe always be overly represented in the decision-making processes regarding how Dealey Plaza should be dealt with and what if any local or state resources should be peeled away from other areas of need to those who live in your region. 

I apologize, more to myself and my reputation as a photographer, once again, for the quality of the images themselves. Stevehuffphoto.com is essentially a Leica photography meeting place online and in order to post anything there you must present some photography. I had very strong opinions about what I saw in Dealey Plaza and if I wanted to see them aired on this very popular website I had to post a selection of Leica images. My desire to post my thoughts is the only reason those images ever saw the light of day. When I was taking them, I was literally thinking, after hitting the shutter over and over again, THAT shot will NEVER see the light of day. Oh well. 

In the end, of course, I'm thrilled that my thoughts were picked up by a prestigious national publication and your own local paper, and that this problem has gotten the attention that it most certainly deserves. I apologize once again if I ruffled the feathers of any of the truly sweet people of Dallas, Texas. That was not my intention ever. 

Thanks for hearing me, Dallas. And thanks to Robert Wilonsky and to Vanity Fair's James Wolcott.  

donald barnat

Freda
Freda

Dealey Plaza is the #1 tourist spot in Dallas.  As a historian, I believe the only changes that should be made is to clean up and paint.  Dealey is a federal landmark and except for less than a handful changes, the layout remains the same as it did in 1963.  As a tour guide, the clients I take through Dealey are impressed that it does still pretty much look the same so that it gives them more of a feel for what occurred on November 22.  It's about time the city starts trying to make a better effort to preserve what it has.  As much as my clients are impressed with Dealey, they are equally unimpressed with the hideous arch.  Hey!   Maybe the city can sell the arch for scrap metal and use the proceeds towards Dealey. 

jamal
jamal

What a c___ tease you are Robert.  I thought there would be renderings.

shawnpwilliams
shawnpwilliams

Interesting to see that this city's love affair with putting roads in the middle of parks dates back to the 1930's.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

The least they could do is repaint the pergolas. It really IS embarrassing to see them in such disrepair.

As for the 50th anniversary, I just hope Lee Harvey's has good drink specials that week.

Larry
Larry

 If anyone has any doubts about the need for this, go over there, take a walk and see for yourself. Donald Barnat from LA was dead-on right with his critcism; the current state is downright embarrassing. I always find it interesting how defensive people in these parts get with constructive, but pointed criticism. If we listened to criticism and dealt with it rather than keeping ourselves in a la-la land mode with deflection and avoidance, we might have a better downtown by now.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

This is something that actually makes some sense.  I am always amazed at the number of visitors who want to see the place, and it could definitely use some work.

C. Troy Mathis
C. Troy Mathis

To: Fill in this blank now. . .

Inform Submarine Group Two to acknowledge the desire for Silent Service guys from the USS Dallas from New London, CT to head down there for volunteer work. Unfortunately, it will have to be around the turn of the year due to commitments before they can get there. But, it can happen. . . Would be a great PR dealio, as well. But, more importantly, this place will get done with these guys for damn near nothing. And, in true submariner fashion, it'll happen so fast you'll wonder why millions are spent on. . . well, that's another story. I am not kidding. Put the plan on paper, have the project leader on site, they will blow your mind. And, embarrass contractors. . .

Before I forget, find the Dallas Navy League as well. Just in case. I'm not sure how good a lead that one is, though. . .

POC: Submarine Group Two PAO online, even located on Facebook. . .Cheers.Chief MathisUSS Memphis and DallasMetropolis.com

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Wrong folks.  TO make money we have to turn it into a Disney style theme park.  Every hour on the hour the limo rolls out, the JFK-ish actor gets popped, and then all the rides start up.  On the grassy knoll, you have 'It not a small conspiracy after all' where visitors have to escape after popping off a shot through the wall.  Then there is My Oswald's Wild Ride where you have to leave the 6 floor of the depository and get to the movie theater.   Near by is the Warren Commission Adventure where blindfolded and hurried by LBJ impersonators, visitors are blind folded and one hand tired behind their backs while maneuvering around stacks of paperwork.  Quick they then proceed to Arlen Spector's magic bullet where you have to shoot a Texas Governor (simulated) through a dummy that looks like JFK.  National Enquirers  'Huh?' is where a added old man claiming to be JFK is asked questions but most older American soon realize it is only John Kerry.   And this is capped with the Texas Giant (hide voting boxes with  JFK) and a Tribute to Dallas where guests stumble through potholes shaped like past and present Dallas mayors. 

Guest
Guest

$1 million to $2 million?!?!?!

Do you know how many consultants the city could hire with that kind of money? Or how many more Calatrava designs that will never be built? And you want them to waste it on maintaining and refurbishing an existing area of downtown?

The city council is full of big picture thinkers. They don't have time for this kind of small-scale thing that no one will remember the city council taking care of anyway.

Robert
Robert

Bring in the Grassy Knoll Crashers and let them pull some measurements and in two days the job or crash is done.

Pergolas you say? They love doing pergolas and fire pits and don't forget the polymeric sand.

Skyliner
Skyliner

In addition to the large Hertz Rent-a-Car sign on top of the schoolbook depository (shown in the photo slide show) there was also the giant Neuhoff Meats sign on the top of their plant in the same area: http://www.flickr.com/photos/f...

Casual Observer
Casual Observer

I bet the folks in Oak Cliff could get it done for under $1,000.   

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Unfortunately, or fortunately however you look at it, this is a huge tourist draw. The city should at least get a wealthy democrat to donate the cash to make this happen. The city has taken enough oil, gas, and nuclear waste money from the republican home town boys( think Simmons, Hunt, Perot, Pickens, etc....) to build everything else we have and proudly tout so it's time for the other side of the bank to step forward and help out.

Dallasboi51
Dallasboi51

Agreed: the historical context cannot 'freeze' the entire neighborhood, nor should it be allowed to fall apart but much of that complex is from when the Triple Underpass was built, and should be 'blended' into the developing city museum in Old Red, not overplanted (who's gonna water 'em?). I, for one, would prefer not to lose an entire block like we did when they built the awful cenotaph two blocks away: now there, trees are finally hiding it.

Mgwest949
Mgwest949

I totally agree that the plaza should be cleaned and the pergolas painted, but aside from that, left alone as they were in 1963. Dealey Plaza is no less an historical icon than Ford's Theater. Historical sites should be be preserved for future generations. My concern is that changes to the plaza will obscure the historical value of what actually happened that day, much as the giant stairwell at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was killed.

James the P3
James the P3

He wasn't right when he suggested closing it to traffic.  It is a vital connector to downtown and can't be closed just because tourists want to stand in the middle lane of Elm Street. 

Stacy
Stacy

bout time someone wrote something positive about this...I agree!! I for one am very interested in the proposal for lighting and adding of historical pictures to the triple underpass...That underpass and the Park are the main entry into Downtown from the South...It's about time we cleaned it up and decked it out to the full glory it deserves....As the entry into Downtown..

Gary
Gary

Just imagine the lines to the Jack Ruby Experience.   Ladies, fill out applications here for Carousel Club lovelies.  Gentlemen, see if you, too, have the timing to burst through the crowd of Fedoras and drop Oswald.

Larry
Larry

^Agree 100% 

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