You are here

John F. Kennedy Memorial

-A A +A
1970, Philip Johnson. 600 block of Main St.

A commission, formed in 1964 and led by Dallas retailer Stanley Marcus, raised funds from private donors for the memorial, which was to be placed on a city block provided by the county adjacent to Old Red (DS1). Marcus knew Johnson through their Harvard University activities and asked him to design the memorial, for which Johnson waived his fee. Years of fund-raising and the construction of an underground parking garage delayed the project until it was finally dedicated in 1970. The memorial is centered on the featureless city block (numerous late-nineteenth-century commercial structures were demolished in 1966 to clear the site), with a lawn and two rows of live oaks along the east and west sides.

Johnson’s “open room” is formed by seventy-two vertical concrete columns joined by concealed steel cables. Columns are omitted at the center of the north and south walls, forming entrances into the unroofed interior. The walls hover above the ground, with two columns at each corner forming the only visible support. The floating void, without inscription or statuary, is a place of calm amid the bustle of the city, contemplative, open to air/spirit. A black granite slab inscribed with “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” is the only link to the memory of the tragic event of November 22, 1963. The bare simplicity of the memorial, inspiring infinite interpretation and experience, has been lauded and condemned over the decades.

To the south, the George L. Allen Sr. County Courthouse in white Vermont marble consolidates all Dallas County civil courts into one building. The original eight-story courthouse (1964, Associated Architects and Engineers) received an addition (2007, Rees Associates; 600 Commerce Street) using marble from the same quarry. A monumental entrance facade and portal, aligned with the Kennedy Memorial across the street, joins the old and new portions, masking the different glazing treatments.

To the east of the memorial, the MKT Building (1912, H. A. Overbeck; 701 Commerce), built for the national headquarters of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, the “Katy,” is a seven-story design with strong Prairie Style character.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "John F. Kennedy Memorial", [Dallas, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 143-143.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.