In preparation for the 50th Anniversary and Memorial ceremony of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, the City of Dallas will be opening its doors and welcoming thousands of visitors, as well as several former Presidents, to the hallowed grounds of Dealey Plaza on November 22nd. Following a yearlong effort to restore and renovate this historic landmark by Dallas architects Good Fulton and Farrell (GFF) and landscape architects, Studio Outside, Dealey Plaza is now ready for its day in the national spotlight.
Renovations to Dealey Plaza actually began ten years ago in preparation for the 40th Anniversary in 2003. GFF worked closely with the City of Dallas and the Sixth Floor Museum to create a series of restoration guidelines that were both historically accurate and compliant with present day standards and codes. Minor repairs, such as painting and patching of existing concrete were completed on the peristyle structures in the main fountain plaza. The existing fountains received new coping, basin repair, and new utility lines, and some concrete flatwork was replaced. Budget constraints prevented further renovation efforts, however, until now.
At the direction of the City of Dallas, GFF was offered the chance last year to continue their renovation design work that had begun a decade ago, and prepare this national landmark for its most important anniversary.
"Dealey Plaza is one of the most visited locations in the City, and the Anniversary will bring even more public and media attention. With so many eyes on the efforts here, it was important to work within the Standards for historic restoration set by US Secretary of the Interior and return the site as accurately as possible to its 1963 appearance" said GFF Principal Jon Rollins. "It was not a task we took lightly. At the same time, we needed to make improvements for handicapped accessibility, safety and durability under much heavier traffic than Dealey Plaza was originally designed to support. The City of Dallas, Texas Historical Commission and the Sixth Floor Museum all had a voice in the process. It was a challenging project that demanded a lot of collaboration."
GFF reached out to Dallas based landscape architects Studio Outside to assist with the renovation and preservation of the overall site plan, landscape, and surrounding hardscape. By reviewing hours of historical video footage, comparing hundreds of photographs and reviewing original blueprints, the design team was able to piece together the physical improvements required to restore the heavily used public space to the period of significance, November 1963.
"The biggest challenge was finding an overall solution for the site that is both historically accurate and what is really needed due to the demands and pressures from so many people coming to this space," said Paul Freeland, Principal at Studio Outside. "Prior to 1963, the site was a simple, civic green space, and more of a visual monument than a functioning park. Now, 50 years later, after millions of visitors have walked through it, we had to rethink how the site would be used going forward while maintaining the fundamental goal which was restoring the site to a snapshot in time."
The newly renovated site plan includes repair and restoration to both north and south Pergolas, a series of new concrete sidewalks and ADA compliant ramps to maximize accessibility and circulation, and revitalized fountains complete with new nozzles, mechanical equipment, and filtration methods. The site landscape renovations include new turf and engineered soil, specified with synthetic fibers to help offset foot traffic and soil compaction, as well as irrigation repair, new shrubs and groundcover beds, the careful pruning of existing site trees, and the stabilization of the large live oaks on the eroded slopes of the Grassy Knoll were also critical for project success. Other site additions include new lighting, a series of small graphic educational panels, and a quote from JFK added on the North side lawn.
The restoration was completed during the summer, leaving several months to allow for the site's final preparations before the end of November. With everything now in place, the City of Dallas can reflect with civic pride on this public space that will live forever in our national consciousness.