Dallas for history buffs

Dallas doesn’t have a long history: its first settler was a young lawyer from Tennessee called John Neely Bryan, who came to Texas looking for a place for his trading post and attracted by the advertisements of the Peters Colony, later known as the Texas Emigration and Land Co.

The area where John Neely Bryan is thought to have built his first log cabin in 1841 is now known as the West End Historic District and that’s where history buffs should begin their tour. A replica of his one-room cedar cabin is located at the Founders’ Plaza, bordered by Elm, South Market, Main and South Houston streets.

John Neely Bryan’ cabin at Founders’ Plaza

Across the street, on Main and Market, is the Kennedy Memorial Plaza. The square cenotaph is 30 feet high and 50 by 50 feet wide and is supposed to symbolize the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. Next to the memorial is the Old Red Museum.

The redbrick building dates from 1892 and was the old courthouse. Today the museum celebrates the history and culture of Dallas County. The collection that I found shocking was that related to the Ku Klux Klan and the segregation era. I learned that in the early 1920s, Dallas Klavern No. 66 boasted the largest membership per capita in the nation! My favourite exhibition is the pioneers’ one, it provides a glimpse into the lives of the early settlers. Don’t miss JR Ewing’s custom-made beaver cowboy hat made by Stetson. Larry Hagman donated it after the first Dallas series ended. He may want it back now!

Old Red Museum


Across the street, Dealey Plaza marks the actual birthplace of Dallas. To the right of Dealey Plaza, on Elm Street, is the world famous Texas School Book Repository from where Harvey Lee Oswald shot President Kennedy. The sixth and seventh floors became the Sixth Floor Museum dedicated to the life, death and legacy of JFK. The collection consists of photos, videos and audio interviews of people who played a role on that fateful day, like the police officer who runs to protect the president and first lady. It didn’t really grip my attention but what I found interesting is that they recreated the corner where Oswald was hidden. Although it’s roped off, you can look out of the next window towards the X painted on the floor and which marks the spot where JFK died.

The exact spot

On Elm and Record streets, next to the Sixth Floor Museum, is the Dallas Holocaust Museum – Center for Education and Tolerance. According to their website, “Holocaust Survivors or Liberators may be available to give their testimonies to groups Sunday through Friday (not appropriate for students under 7th grade)” It sounds incredibly interesting, don’t you think? I have to admit that I’ve never been able to visit any Holocaust museum yet, I think I’d burst into tears as soon as I step inside. Maybe I’m a coward and cannot face so much suffering, pain and loss.

On a lighter note, those interested in pioneer history should definitely head to the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park, near the Dallas Farmers Market. Please note that it closes during August. 19th century life, both in towns and the frontier, is recreated through original Victorian homes, log cabins, a train depot, commercial buildings like a saloon or a general store, a mill, a schoolhouse, a doctor’s office (I’m so glad I live in the 21st century!), to name a few. It’s a fun place to visit with children, the gardens are beautiful and docents in period dress are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have.

A pioneer teacher… or maybe not
Main Street
Dallas Holocaust Museum
211 North Record Street, Suite 100
Dallas, Texas 75202.For information call 214-741-7500 or email info@dallasholocaustmuseum.org
Dallas Heritage Village
1515 South Harwood Street

8 thoughts on “Dallas for history buffs

  1. Hi Ana,
    Welcome to Dallas. It takes an expat to write about it. 🙂 Have you been inside the 6th Floor museum yet? It’s actually one of the best places in Dallas. Love to chat with you.


    1. Hi Penny. I have visited the Sixth Floor Museum but I was a bit disappointed, I left none the wiser as to what happened.
      It’s funny how it’s easier to write about a city other than yours 🙂


  2. Wow…that KKK robe gave me the creeps.

    I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s an incredibly emotional experience, and you do have to prepare yourself a bit mentally before you go, but in my opinion, it’s absolutely worthwhile.


  3. Pingback: From Our Contributors: Week of August 20 | PocketCultures

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