Ford's Theatre

Ford's Theatre

Overview
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination
Abraham Lincoln assassination
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of...

 of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the fatally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House
Petersen House
The Petersen House is a 19th-century federal style rowhouse located at 516 10th Street NW in Washington, D.C. On April 15, 1865, United States President Abraham Lincoln died there after being shot the previous evening at Ford's Theater, which was located across the street. The house was built in...

, where he died the next morning.

The theatre was later used as a warehouse and office building. It was renovated and re-opened as a theater in 1968.
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Encyclopedia
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination
Abraham Lincoln assassination
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of...

 of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the fatally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House
Petersen House
The Petersen House is a 19th-century federal style rowhouse located at 516 10th Street NW in Washington, D.C. On April 15, 1865, United States President Abraham Lincoln died there after being shot the previous evening at Ford's Theater, which was located across the street. The house was built in...

, where he died the next morning.

The theatre was later used as a warehouse and office building. It was renovated and re-opened as a theater in 1968. During the 2000s it was renovated again, opening on February 12, 2009, in commemoration of Lincoln's bicentennial.

The Petersen House and the theatre are preserved together as Ford's Theatre National Historic Site.

Ford's Theatre is located at 511 10th Street, NW.

History



The site was originally a house of worship, constructed in 1833 as the second meeting house of the First Baptist Church of Washington, with Obadiah Bruen Brown
Obadiah Bruen Brown
Obadiah Bruen Brown was a Baptist clergyman who served as Chaplain of the House and as Chaplain of the Senate .- Early life :...

 as the pastor. In 1861, after the congregation moved to a newly built structure, John T. Ford
John T. Ford
John Thomson Ford was an American theater manager in the nineteenth century. He is most notable for operating Ford's Theatre at the time of the Abraham Lincoln assassination.-Early life:...

 bought the former church and renovated it into a theatre. He first called it Ford's Athenaeum. It was destroyed by fire in 1862, and was rebuilt the following year. When the new Ford's Theatre opened in August 1863, it had seating for 2,400 persons and was called a "magnificent new thespian temple".

Just five days after General Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's surrender at Appomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House
The Appomattox Courthouse is the current courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia built in 1892. It is located in the middle of the state about three miles northwest of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, once known as Clover Hill - home of the original Old Appomattox Court House...

, Lincoln and his wife attended a performance of Our American Cousin
Our American Cousin
Our American Cousin is an 1858 play in three acts by English playwright Tom Taylor. The play is a farce whose plot is based on the introduction of an awkward, boorish but honest American, Asa Trenchard, to his aristocratic English relatives when he goes to England to claim the family estate...

at Ford's Theatre. The famous actor John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

, desperate to aid the dying Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

, stepped into the box where the presidential party was sitting and shot Lincoln. Booth then jumped onto the stage, and cried out "Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants." It is sometimes mistranslated as "down with the tyrant." The phrase is said to have originated with Marcus Junius Brutus during the assassination of Julius Caesar....

" (some heard "The South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 is avenged!") just before escaping through the back of the theatre.

Following the assassination, the United States Government appropriated the theatre, with Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 paying Ford $
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

100,000 in compensation, and an order was issued forever prohibiting its use as a place of public amusement. Between 1866 and 1887, the theatre was taken over by the U.S. military and served as a facility for the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 with records kept on the first floor, the Library of the Surgeon General's Office
Library of the Surgeon General's Office
The Library of the Surgeon General's Office, later called the Army Medical Library, was the institutional medical literature repository of the U.S...

 on the second floor, and the Army Medical Museum
National Museum of Health and Medicine
The National Museum of Health and Medicine is a museum in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., USA. An element of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the NMHM is a member of the National Health Sciences Consortium....

 on the third. In 1887, the building exclusively became a clerk's office for the War Department, when the medical departments moved out. The front part of the building collapsed on June 9, 1893, killing 22 clerks and injuring another 68. This led some people to believe that the former church turned theatre and storeroom was cursed. The building was repaired and used as a government warehouse until 1931.

It languished unused until 1968. The restoration of Ford's Theatre was brought about by the two decade-long lobbying efforts of Democratic National Committeeman Melvin D. Hildreth and Republican North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

 Senator Milton Young
Milton Young
Milton Ruben Young was a United States politician, most notable for representing North Dakota in the United States Senate from 1945 until 1981. At the time of his retirement, he was the most senior Republican in the Senate....

. Hildreth first suggested to Young the need for its restoration in 1945. Through extensive lobbying of Congress, a bill was passed in 1955 to prepare an engineering study for the reconstruction of the building. In 1964 Congress approved funds for its restoration, which began that year and was completed in 1968.
The theatre reopened on January 30, 1968, with a gala performance.

Ford's Theatre National Historic Site


The National Historic Site consisting of two contributing buildings, the theatre and the Petersen House, was designated in 1932. It has 0.9 acre (0.3642174 ha) in area.

The Ford's Theater Museum beneath the theatre contains portions of the Olroyd Collection of Lincolniana. On display are multiple items related to the assassination, including the Derringer
Derringer
The term derringer is a genericized misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pocket pistols. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide, and the name was often misspelled; this misspelling soon became...

 pistol used to carry out the shooting, Booth's diary and the original door to Lincoln's theatre box. In addition, a number of Lincoln's family items, his coat (without the blood-stained pieces), some statues of Lincoln and several large portraits of the President, are on display in the museum. The blood-stained pillow from the President's deathbed resides at the Petersen House. The blood-stained chair in which he was sitting is now on display at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan
Dearborn, Michigan
-Economy:Ford Motor Company has its world headquarters in Dearborn. In addition its Dearborn campus contains many research, testing, finance and some production facilities. Ford Land controls the numerous properties owned by Ford including sales and leasing to unrelated businesses such as the...

.

The theatre was again renovated during the 2000s. The re-opening ceremony was on February 12, 2009, which commemorated Lincoln's 200th birthday. It has a current capacity of 661.

Tours of Ford's Theatre and the adjacent Petersen House are by timed-entry ticket. Tickets can be reserved ahead, and there are also tickets available on the day of entry on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is free.

Petersen House


Attendants, including Dr. Charles Leale
Charles Leale
Dr. Charles Augustus Leale M.D. was a surgeon in the Union Army during the American Civil War.He was the first doctor to be admitted into the presidential box at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 after John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with a Philadelphia...

, carried the President onto 10th Street. The doctor decided to take him to Petersen's boarding house across the street. The streets were extremely crowded with people because of the uproar. A captain cleared the way to the brick federal style
Federal architecture
Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in the United States between c. 1780 and 1830, and particularly from 1785 to 1815. This style shares its name with its era, the Federal Period. The name Federal style is also used in association with furniture design...

 rowhouse. A boarder, Henry Safford, noticed what was going on and stood on the front steps crying, "Bring him in here! Bring him in here!" Then he was taken into the bedroom in the rear of the parlors and placed on a bed that was not long enough for him. Mrs. Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

 was escorted across the street by Clara Harris
Clara Harris
Clara Harris was an American socialite.-Biography:Clara Harris was the daughter of U.S. Senator Ira Harris of New York....

, who had been in the box during the shooting, and whose fiancé, Henry Rathbone
Henry Rathbone
Henry Reed Rathbone was a United States military officer and diplomat who was present at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Rathbone was sitting with his fiancée, Clara Harris, next to the President and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth entered the president's box at...

, had been stabbed by Booth during the assassination. Rathbone, bleeding severely from the knife wound in his arm, collapsed from loss of blood after arriving at the Petersen House.

During the night and early morning, military guards patrolled outside to prevent onlookers from coming inside the house. A parade of government officials and physicians was allowed to come inside and pay respects to the unconscious President. Physicians continually removed blood clots which formed over the wound and poured out the excess brain fluid and brain matter from where the bullet had entered Lincoln's head in order to relieve pressure on the brain. However, the external and internal hemorrhaging continued throughout the night. Lincoln died in the house on April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m., at age 56. Among the attending physicians was Anderson Ruffin Abbott
Anderson Ruffin Abbott
Anderson Ruffin Abbott, M.D. was the first Black Canadian to be a licensed physician. His career included participation in the American Civil War and attending the death bed of Abraham Lincoln.-Early life:...

, a black, Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

-educated doctor who later wrote "Some recollections of Lincoln's assassination".

The National Park Service has operated the Petersen House as a historic house museum since 1933. The rooms have been furnished to appear as if it were the night of Abraham Lincoln's death.

See also


  • Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
    Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
    Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park preserves two farm sites where Abraham Lincoln lived as a child.In the fall of 1808, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled on Sinking Spring Farm. Two months later on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born there in a one-room log cabin. Today...

  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
    Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
    The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum documents the life of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, and the course of the American Civil War. Combining traditional scholarship with 21st century showmanship techniques, the popular museum continues to rank as one of the most visited...

  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
    Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
    Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is a United States Presidential Memorial, a National Historic Landmark District in present-day Lincoln City, Indiana. It preserves the farm site where Abraham Lincoln lived with his family from 1816 to 1830. During that time, he grew from a 7-year-old boy to a...

  • Lincoln Home National Historic Site
    Lincoln Home National Historic Site
    Lincoln Home National Historic Site preserves the Springfield, Illinois home where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1844 to 1861, before becoming the 16th President of the United States...

  • Lincoln Memorial
    Lincoln Memorial
    The Lincoln Memorial is an American memorial built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor of the main statue was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior...

  • Lincoln Tomb
    Lincoln Tomb
    Lincoln's Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, is the final resting place of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons. The monument is owned and administered by the State of Illinois as Lincoln Tomb State...

  • Mount Rushmore
    Mount Rushmore
    Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

  • Theater in Washington, D.C.
  • United States Presidential Memorial
    United States presidential memorial
    The Presidential memorials in the United States honor the various Presidents of the United States and seek to perpetuate their legacies.-Living and physical elements:...

  • President Lincoln's Cottage

External links