Wednesday, June 16, 2010 , Updated 12:00 a.m., June 24, 2010
Photo gallery: Dallas commemorates 40th anniversary of JFK Memorial Plaza
New gold leaf letters were added to Kennedy’s name on the memorial.
DALLAS The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza hosted a free event to celebrate the John F. Kennedy Memorial’s “over the hill” birthday on Tuesday. The memorial will celebrate its 40th anniversary on June 24, and since it was opened, the structure has been a significant piece of Dallas' architecture.
To commemorate this milestone, Frank Welch, an architect and the author of Phillip Johnson & Texas, spoke at the event. (Phillip Johnson, architect for the memorial, died in 2005.)
“Texas is my favorite country,” Welch told the crowd, which he quoted from Johnson in his book. Johnson also designed The Thanksgiving Square and the Comerica Bank Tower in downtown.
The structure's simple design of a “cenotaph,” or open tomb, is meant to symbolize the freedom of the former president’s spirit and provide a space for reflection. The memorial itself is roofless, but the walls consist of 72 concrete columns that seem to float without any support.
Inside the walls is a small square that is too short to be a base of a statue and too square to be a tomb. This is where the name John Fitzgerald Kennedy is carved, and new gold leaf letters were added to Kennedy’s name on the memorial on Tuesday. It was clear the gold leaf letters were one of the highlights of the anniversary event. “We get all the credit for doing 2% of the work, after everyone else does all of the hard work,” said Robert Marshall, director and senior conservator of an “art conservation & gold leaf studio.”
The memorial has been restored since its initial opening in 1970, and the construction company performed the job “practically for free,” said Dale Sellers of Phoenix I Restoration & Construction, Ltd. The actual cost of the restoration is unknown because so many of the materials and supplies were donated from local businesses, but the cost could have been in the millions and Phoenix I agreed to receive just $25,000 for their work. Since then, the company has restored more than $150 million worth of work in historic parts of Dallas and the greater state.
Unlike most memorials, this one was entirely funded by citizens, and that should only add to what it means for Dallas. None of Kennedy’s family attended the opening ceremony for the memorial, although they were invited, and yet still the symbol of JFK's legacy on Dallas culture lives on.
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