Dallas County Historical Commission

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Welcome to the Dallas County Historical Commission's audio tour app of historical markers in Dealey Plaza and Founder's Plaza. Click on a location from the list below.



Texas School Book Depository Building

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The building that became known as the Texas School Book Depository was built in 1901 for the Southern Rock Island Plow Company. The land was originally owned by Dallas founder John Neely Bryan. This building was leased to the Texas School Book Depository Company at the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A source of shame for Dallas after the assassination, there was a call to demolish the building after the depository moved out in 1970. Instead, Dallas County purchased the building and renovated the first five floors for county offices. The 6th and 7th floors remained empty.

In 1978 the iconic Hertz Car Rental sign was removed from the roof and stored. A decade later, in 1989, the 6th Floor Museum opened. Today more than 325,000 people seeking more information on the assassination visit the museum every year.


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View from Dealey Plaza of the Dallas County Administration Building, formerly, the Texas School Book Depository Building.

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View from the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building in late 1983. Photo credit: Charles Stokes Sr.

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View from the 7th floor of the 6th Floor Museum 2012.

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View of Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll from the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building.

Old Red Courthouse

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You have arrived at 100 South Houston Street, and standing before you is Dallas County’s sixth courthouse. It is commonly referred to as The Old Red Courthouse. Old Red was built on the same property that John Neely Bryan donated to the city in 1850. It was built in 1892, following a major city expansion in 1890 in which Dallas tripled in size, and resulted in 769 new buildings, the largest of which was Old Red. This came during an era of Texas history in which grandiose courthouses sprung up in many Texas cities. Courthouses were always the center of the town; symbols of law, order, and justice. Old Red is still a crown jewel among them.

Old Red was not Dallas County’s first courthouse, although it is the county’s longest-standing courthouse. Old Red predecessors including the first courthouse, a 10ft by 10 ft log cabin, burned in 1848. Old Red was built at a cost of $350,000, which was astronomical at the time. It was built from red sandstone and blue granite in an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque Architecture. It originally had a clock tower, although it was demolished in 1919 due to structural concerns. Over the years, Old Red functioned as a courthouse, until the 1990’s. Over time, Old Red has gone through several restorations. During one of those restorations, a previously unknown ornate vault was discovered. In 2007, during its final major restoration, a new clock tower was built. An original E. Howard clock mechanism was brought from Massachusetts, restored, and lifted into place. If you look at the building, you will notice many unique features, including four wyvern gargoyles and many stained glass windows.

Today, Old Red houses the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture and is rented out for weddings and other occasions. We invite you to take a look inside and explore the history of Dallas. Old Red not only beat the odds of destruction by fire that its predecessors fell to. Old Red has often been the target of wrecking balls. Old Red stands before you today due to the valiant efforts and struggles of many individuals who see in Old Red a symbol of the city’s founding ideas of mercantilism, individualism, and perseverance.


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Old Red Courthouse. Photo Credit: Todd Toney

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Clock mechanism in tower

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One of the four "Wyvirn" gargoyles

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Cupola above the clock tower

Dallas County Criminal Courts Building

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The Dallas County Criminal Courts building opened in 1915 with a jail, hospital, operating room, court rooms, barber shop, and jailer's quarters. Because the jail section began on the 5th floor, it was thought to be escape proof. It wasn't. Over the years, many prisoners escaped.

Gene Autry's recording of "The Dallas County Jail Blues," released in 1931, described the jail as the High Five.

In addition to Jack Ruby, this jail has housed other famous criminals, including the 1930s gangster Binny Binnion, Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and Raymond Hamilton, who was a member of the Barrow Gang. After Bonnie and Clyde were killed, in fact, both of their mothers were imprisoned for one month in this building, convicted of aiding and abetting their offspring.

In 1923, Texas changed its laws to require that executions only be performed in Huntsville, and only using the electric chair. Until that time, those condemned to die in Dallas County were hanged in this jail. Three "death cells" still exist on the top floor, as does a "baptism room" containing an old claw-foot tub surrounded by prisoner-created religious artwork. Legend holds that the condemned were offered a chance at redemption through baptism. Those who took it were doused in the tub before being hanged.

In 1925 the jail was besieged by a mob of over 5,000 people, seeking to lynch Frank and Lorenzo Noel, two black men accused of killing a white man and assaulting white women. The rioters fired upon the jail; return fire from Sheriff's deputies killed one of the mob and wounded six others. The following week, the Noel brothers were tried and convicted. They were transported to Huntsville on May 31st and executed in the electric chair on July 3rd.

The Dallas County Criminal Courts building is now said to be haunted by a "tall, dark shadow" wearing a white jumper, who, when sighted, appears to be working in the kitchen and storeroom area. And every now and then, some say, a lady ghost appears.


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Founder's Plaza

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Dallas County’s rich history began in 1850 with its original 2,743 settlers to its present population today. Before World War Two, Dallas was a primarily rural county of farmers, laborers, railroad men, bankers, and professional people. After World War Two, the county gradually became more urban.

Drawing tourists and history buffs, the Dallas County Historical Plaza, located at the junctions of Main, Market, and Elm Streets, stands as a reminder of our history.

Considered to be the founder of Dallas, John Neely Bryan chose this spot to build a cabin on the banks of the Trinity River. A replica of that cabin stands today in the plaza.

The Old Dallas County Courthouse was built in 1890 in the Romanesque Revival style on the site of the county’s original log courthouse. Located on Houston Street between Main and Commerce, it’s now the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture. It’s also home to the Dallas Visitor’s Center.

Also on the plaza stands the John F. Kennedy Memorial. Architect Phillip Johnson designed the open-roofed square room made of limestone. Within the four solemn walls is a black marble slab engraved with the words “John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” Johnson called the memorial a “Cenotaph” or empty tomb. He said the intent was for the open roof to symbolize JFK’s freedom of spirit.


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Founder's Plaza

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View of Founder's Plaza from the George Allen Courthouse

John Neely Bryan Log Cabin

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Under Construction

This portion of the audio tour is currently being developed.

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John F. Kennedy Memorial

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You've arrived at 646 Main Street and are looking at the JFK Memorial (erected in 1970). The Presidential motorcade was just 200 yards west of this location when Kennedy was killed.

The memorial, which was paid for by the citizens of Dallas, was designed by world renowned architect, Philip Johnson. Johnson (who died in 2005), was a personal friend of the Kennedy family. The design, approved by Jacqueline Kennedy, is of an open tomb symbolizing the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. The memorial, calm and quiet, stands in stark contrast to the stormy and dark period of Dallas’ history that led to its construction.

Philip Johnson once said: “All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”

We invite you to enter the interior. You will note that outside sounds seem to disappear, while you are enveloped in an atmosphere of serenity and contemplation.


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View of the John F. Kennedy Memorial from the George Allen Courthouse

DCHC Newsletter

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The Dallas County Chronicle is a quarterly publication of the Dallas County Historical Commission.

Dallas County Historical Commission

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The Dallas County Historical Commission serves as the County’s primary advisory body on historic preservation matters, provides the first level of review for State Historical Marker requests, and encourages an appreciation of the history of Dallas County among its residents.

Audio Tour Credits

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This audio tour was written and produced by members of the Dallas County Historical Commission.

Charles Stokes programmed the web app, as well as took all photography unless otherwise noted. Email: cstokesv@outlook.com

Don Baynham, Historical Commission Chair, edited and organized the tour. Email: baynham@dcccd.edu

Voice artists are Jamie Coley and Dave Kuhn.

Todd Toney photographed the Old Red Courthouse.

Dallas County Chronicle

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Dallas County Chronicle - May 2013 Dallas County Chronicle - December 2012 Dallas County Chronicle - June 2012 Dallas County Chronicle - January 2012 Dallas County Chronicle - October 2011 Dallas County Chronicle - May 2010 Dallas County Chronicle - June 2009 Dallas County Chronicle - July 2008