Ford's Theatre, Washington
Ford's Theatre is a historic theatre in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the fatally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the next morning.
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 as the pastor.
In 1861, after the congregation moved to a newly built structure, John T. Ford 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's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Lincoln and his wife attended a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre.
The famous actor John Wilkes Booth, desperate to aid the dying Confederacy, 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" (some heard "The South is avenged!") just before escaping through the back of the theatre.
Following the assassination, the United States Government appropriated the theatre, with Congress paying Ford $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 with records kept on the first floor, the Library of the Surgeon General's Office on the second floor, and the Army Medical Museum 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 Senator Milton Young.
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.
The Ford's Theatre Museum beneath the theatre contains portions of the Olroyd Collection of Lincolniana. On display are multiple items related to the assassination, including the Derringer pistol used to carry out the shooting, Booth's diary and the original door to Lincoln's theatre box. The blood-stained chair in which he was sitting is now on display at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
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.