About Ford Theatre
Ford Theatre is most famously known for being the site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. John T. Ford owned the theater, and it first opened in August 1863. Since the assassination, it has undergonen several renovations and serves as a performing arts center and museum. The theater is a National Historic Landmark, and the National Park Service administers it.
(Image Credit: Ford’s Theatre)
History of Ford Theatre
Ford Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., known for its association with the assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. It is now a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. The theater was built in 1833 by John T. Ford, a prominent theater manager in the mid-19th century. It was initially called the Ford’s Athenaeum and served as a venue for plays, lectures, and music recitals. It became known as Ford’s New Theater in the 1850s and featured popular stage productions.
The theater was the site of Lincoln’s assassination when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a production of Our American Cousin. The theater was closed following the assassination and remained shuttered for over a decade. It was eventually restored and reopened in 1968 and has served as a museum and performing arts center ever since. Today, the theater is a popular tourist destination, offering guided tours, educational programs, and original theatrical productions. The building also features a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of Lincoln.
Assassination of President Lincoln
On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shortly after 10 p.m., Booth entered the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre, to the side of and above the stage. He was armed with a single-shot, .44-caliber Derringer pistol. Booth waited for a moment in which the laughter from the audience obscured the sound of the gunshot and then fired at Lincoln from a distance of only three or four feet. The bullet entered the back of Lincoln’s head, passed through the brain, and lodged behind the left eye.
Lincoln slumped forward, unconscious and barely alive. Major Henry Rathbone, who had been in the box with the president, attempted to apprehend Booth, but the assassin slashed him with a knife and leaped onto the stage. Booth shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” Lincoln went across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the following day. Vice President Andrew Johnson was quickly sworn in and ordered a search for Booth. At least eight other conspirators were involved in the plot to assassinate the president, and all were tried and convicted in a military court.
National Historic Site
Ford’s Theatre is a National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., where John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. The site includes the theater, to restore its 1865 appearance, and the Petersen House, where Lincoln died the following day. The theater also features a museum that displays artifacts related to the assassination, including the gun used by Booth and a fragment of the pillowcase used to carry Lincoln’s body from the theater. Visitors can also explore the exhibits, watch a film about Lincoln’s assassination, and take self-guided tours of the theater, the Petersen House, and the museum.
The Petersen House, also known as the House Where Lincoln Died, is a 19th-century row house located at 516 10th Street NW in Washington, D.C. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln assassinated on April 14, 1865. William A. Petersen, a German tailor, built this house. The Petersen family occupied the first floor and rented out the upper two floors to boarders. The house was damaged in the 1868 Washington D.C. earthquake and sold to a Catholic order of nuns, who used it as a convent and school. In 1933, the building was purchased by the U.S. government and turned into a historical museum.
Today, the Petersen House is part of the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and is open to the public. Visitors can take guided tours of the house and learn more about the events of April 14, 1865. The building contains a variety of artifacts related to Lincoln’s assassination, including the bed where he died and the clothes he wore when he got shot. The Petersen House also includes a variety of interactive exhibits and educational programs aimed at helping visitors understand the significance of Lincoln’s death and the legacy he left behind.
Final Thoughts – Ford Theatre
Ford Theatre is one of the most iconic theatres in the United States. It is a National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., associated with President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It has a long and rich history of performances, from its first grand opening in 1863 to its reopening as an operating theatre in 1968. Visitors can explore the Theatre, the museum, and Lincoln’s box and see live performances. Ford’s Theatre is a unique and essential part of American history that is worth a visit.