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The Grassy Knoll


Named by United Press International reporter Merriman Smith moments after the Kennedy assassination, the "grassy knoll" is a sloping hill in Dealey Plaza leading to a concrete wall and picket fence on the north side of Elm Street. The knoll was to the President's right front during the shooting, although investigators later decided shots originated from the Texas School Book Depository to his right rear.

Films, photographs and eyewitness accounts show that most police and bystanders ran first to the grassy knoll area, yet found no evidence of a gunman there. Photograph #1 shows the knoll and some of these people.


Minutes after the shooting, Dallas Times Herald photographer William Allen ran from the newspaper building to Dealey Plaza and caught this view of bystanders milling around Dallas Police officer Clyde Haygood's motorcycle at the foot of the grassy knoll. The names of most of these people are unknown. An unidentified officer peered over the picket fence at a spot where some witnesses thought a shot originated. (Dallas Times Herald Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.)

Others thought shots came from the Depository building, where a police search yielded three spent cartridges in the southeast corner window of the sixth floor and a matching rifle hidden behind book boxes on that floor's northwest corner. Within days, as shown in photograph #2, investigators concentrated almost exclusively on the known shots from the building.

Five days after the assassination, Dallas Police and news photographers from CBS affiliate KRLD-TV assisted Secret Service agents by filming the scene from the Book Depository and from this convertible on Elm Street. Dallas Police crime lab Sgt. Pete Barnes can be seen with his camera standing on the pedestal used by Abraham Zapruder when he filmed the assassination. Floral tributes to the late President began appearing near the knoll the afternoon following his death. (Dallas Times Herald Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.)

Views three and six from the sniper's nest show the grassy knoll area. Although the trees are much taller now and some of the shrubbery is a little different, the grassy knoll appears just like it was in 1963. Nearly every part of the picket fence atop the knoll has been replaced over the years due to theft and vandalism. In 2000, the City of Dallas Parks Department, in consultation with The Sixth Floor Museum, tore down the dilapidated fence and replaced it with a new replica that is the exact height and shape of the original.

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