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The Local’s JFK History Tour

November 9, 2010 5:26 PM

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The story of the Kennedy assassination is well-known, and thousands of people visit Dealey Plaza each year to see the spot where the president was killed.  But there are a few Kennedy-related sites and stories around Dallas / Fort Worth that sometimes get overlooked.  Here’s the local guide to the do-it-yourself Kennedy tour.
365e71ec577e49fb8e5eb28f072a9f24 The Locals JFK History Tour

President John F. Kennedy speaks in Fort Worth on Nov. 2, 1963. (White House photo)

First stop:

Hilton Fort Worth Hotel
815 Main Street
Fort Worth

Trivia question:  Where did President Kennedy spend his last night?  The answer is Fort Worth, at the Hotel Texas downtown.  That’s where we start our tour.  Today the hotel is a Hilton.  In the lobby, you can see a plaque commemorating President Kennedy’s stay there on the night of November 21, 1963.  Park at a meter on the street.

Second stop:

Dealey Plaza
Elm/Main/Commerce & Houston Streets
Dallas

Obviously, this is not one of the overlooked sites on the JFK tour.  But this is the spot where Kennedy was shot, so we have to include it.  The actual spot on Elm Street is marked with an “X” on the road.

school book depository The Locals JFK History Tour

This photo taken on March 13, 2010, shows the former Texas School Book Depository Building in Dealey Plaza. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Third stop:

Sixth Floor Museum
411 Elm Street
Dallas

The Sixth Floor Museum is another obvious but can’t-miss stop on the tour.  Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy from a window on the sixth floor of the building, which at the time was the Texas School Book Depository building.  The museum has thousands of Kennedy-related items in its collection, including the famous Zapruder film and a reproduction of Oswald’s sniper’s perch.

Fourth stop:

Parkland Hospital
5201 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas

Parkland is the public hospital for Dallas County, so it’s a very busy place.  Because it’s a working hospital, we don’t recommend wandering through there as a tourist.  The employees there have much more important things to do.  But there is a little-known bit of Kennedy memorabilia there.  The president was taken to Parkland’s emergency room immediately after he was shot, where surgeons tried in vain to save his life.  The hospital has been remodeled since then. But on the wall of the waiting room in the x-ray department, there’s a small bronze plaque.  It tells visitors the room was the location of Trauma Room 1 on November 22, 1963.  The plaque doesn’t mention that it was the room where the president died—but it doesn’t have to, because the implication is obvious.

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The interior of the Texas Theatre in Dallas, where Oswald hid after shooting President Kennedy. (Dallas Police Dept. photo)

Fifth stop:

Texas Theatre
231 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Dallas

After he shot the president, Lee Harvey Oswald went to the Texas Theatre and entered without paying.  Presumably, he was trying to hide from the police.  But they tracked him to the Texas and arrested him just before 2 p.m.

Sixth stop:

Dallas Municipal Building
Former Location of Dallas City Hall & Jail
106 S. Harwood
Dallas

In 1963, the Dallas jail was located in this building.  Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement on November 24.  The basement isn’t accessible by the public, but it’s definitely a key location in the Kennedy assassination mystique.  The building is currently being renovated.  When it’s done, it will house the University of North Texas at Dallas’ law school.

funeral2 The Locals JFK History Tour

Men lower Lee Harvey Oswald's casket into the ground at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. (Photo from http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/funeral2.jpg)

Seventh stop:

Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery
7301 E. Lancaster
Fort Worth

The last stop on our tour brings us back to Fort Worth, where we started.  Lee Harvey Oswald is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in east Fort Worth.  When Oswald’s family was searching for a place to bury him, several cemeteries refused to accept the casket.  Rose Hill was the only one that would take it.  People in the cemetery office won’t tell visitors where Oswald is buried (can you blame them?).  We will, though.  But first, there’s one more JFK-related mystery to tell.

Oswald’s grave is on the western side of the cemetery.  There are no other grave markers within several feet of it—except one, just a few inches away.  It’s marked “Nick Beef.”  But who was Nick Beef, and why is his grave the only one near Oswald’s?

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Headstones of Lee Harvey Oswald and Nick Beef. (Photo credit Keith Robinson)

One story is that Nick Beef was the stage name of an old Vaudeville comedian.  He knew the cemetery staff wouldn’t reveal the location of Oswald’s grave.  So in an effort to get around it, he bought the plot right next to Oswald’s.  Then he would tell his audiences to ask for the location of Nick Beef’s grave, and that way they could find Oswald’s.

Apparently the cemetery staff figured out the plan pretty soon, because today they won’t tell you where Nick Beef’s grave is, either.  And allegedly, nobody is actually buried in Beef’s grave.  It’s just a headstone.

There are few clues about Nick Beef’s real identity.  There’s little evidence there was actually a comedian by that name.  But anybody who knows the truth seems to be keeping it a secret.

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Lee Harvey Oswald's headstone. (Photo credit Keith Robinson)

Here’s how to get to Oswald’s grave:
•    Please remember that this is a large cemetery.  Thousands of non-infamous people are buried here.  We urge you to be respectful.
•    Turn off of Lancaster onto northbound Rose Hill Drive.
•    Take the first right, which enters the cemetery.
•    After you have entered the cemetery grounds, take the first right.  You’ll now be going south.
•    You’ll come to a red granite mausoleum sitting in the middle of a fork in the road.  Park on the side of the road, just north of the mausoleum.
•    Get out of your car and turn to the west, which should be on your right.  You should be able to walk basically straight west and run right into Oswald’s grave. It’s about 150 feet northwest of the mausoleum, not far off the road where you just parked.

Some people find that they need a drink after seeing the grave of one of the world’s most notorious killers (or alleged killers, as the case may be).  If you’re among them, you can head west on Lancaster for about a mile and find a bar called the Ozzie Rabbit Lodge.  “Ozzie Rabbit” was one of the nicknames Oswald picked up while in the Marines, apparently after the 1930s cartoon character Oswald Rabbit.  The bar’s logo is a sketch of Lee Harvey Oswald with rabbit ears.
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