Just a couple of blocks from the spot where JFK's motorcade slowly rolled by the Texas School Book Depository is the heart of historic downtown Dallas -- though nothing of permanence was built here until the 1890s. In the middle of the plaza is a reminder of Dallas's recent origins as a Western outpost: John Neely Bryan Cabin, a replica of the one-room log structure built by the Tennessee-born attorney credited with founding the city in 1841. The original cabin stood on the banks of the Trinity River.

Across Main Street is the John F. Kennedy Memorial, funded by private donations and designed by the famed architect Philip Johnson in 1970. The open-roofed square room, made of limestone, is a "cenotaph" (an empty tomb), according to Johnson. Unfortunately, the memorial is also empty of emotion -- not the moving testament to a president and event that so marked the American national psyche. Inside the four solemn walls is a black marble slab, which looks like a low coffee table, engraved with the words JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY. Johnson's intent was for the open roof to symbolize the "freedom of spirit of JFK," but I doubt that many visitors will feel their own spirits soar here.

Just west of the Kennedy Memorial, across Record Street, is the Old Red Courthouse, built in self-important Romanesque Revival style in 1890 on the site of the original log courthouse (property donated by city founder John Neely Bryan). The blue granite and red sandstone building today houses the Dallas Visitors Center (which has Internet access, and sightseeing and hotel and restaurant information).

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Occasionally, true nonbelievers still hang around the Texas School Book Depository trumpeting far-fetched, wacky, and occasionally plausible tales about the JFK assassination to anyone who will listen.