Ford's Theatre is located in Washington, D.C., and is the tragic site of the assassination of the 16th President of the United States and is open to the public. It is where on that fateful day on April 14, 1865 Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a performance at the theatre.

This is not the only memorial site of the famous president. President Abraham Lincoln is one of the four presidents represented on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, there is the famous Lincon Memorial in D.C., and one can also visit the birthplace and childhood home of Lincoln in Illonis today in the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

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The Assassination of President Lincoln

Just five days after the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Court House, President Lincoln attended a performance of Our American Cousin together with his wife, Mary.

At the time President Abraham Lincoln was 56 years old. He was fatally wounded by the shot succumbing to his wounds the following morning in Petersen House across the street.

  • Age At The Time Of Assassination: 56 Years Old
  • Official Date & Time: 7.22 am, April 15, 1865

The assailant was the famous actor John Wilkes Booth who was desperate to save the collapsing Confederacy. He walked to the presidential box and pulled the trigger. Booth then fled the theater jumping down to the stage and running out the rear door.

The Story Of Ford's Theatre

At the time Ford's Theatre was new having only been opened as a theater in August 1863 - during the destructive Civil War. But it was not originally a theater, instead, it was built in 1833 as a meeting house for the First Baptist Church of Washington.

When the Baptists moved out to their new building, the church was purchased by John T. Ford who then converted into a theater. It then burnt down in 1862 but was quickly rebuilt.

  • Uses Of the Building: As A Church, Theater, As a Facility for The War Department, Medical Museum, Warehouse, Office, and Theater Again

Following the death of the President, the theater was repurposed as a warehouse and an office building. It may come as a surprise to many, but is once again restored as a working theater and one can go and see the performances there.

The assassination of President Lincoln was not the only tragic event to happen in this building. In 1893 part of it collapsed claiming the lives of 22 people. Later it was renovated and re-opened as a theater in 1968.

After the assassination, the US Government bought the theater and paid Ford $88,000 in compensation. An order was then decreed to forever prohibit the venue to be used as a place of public amusement.

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Visiting Ford's Theatre Today

The museum is made of three parts, the Ford Theatre, Petersen's House, the Aftermath Exhibits

Historic Site Hours:

  • Wednesday-Monday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Last entry at 4 p.m.)
  • Closed: Tuesday

Today Peterson House and the theater are both preserved as the Ford's Theatre National Historic Site and are administered by the National Park Service.

Today one can go inside the theatre and learn about the night of the assassination. One will see that the theatre looks much the same as it did that mournful night. The President's Box is decorated with an American flag as well as a portrait of America's first president (George Washington) just as it was back in 1865.

  • Restricted Access: The Interior of the President's Box Is Closed to The Public To Protect it From Damage
  • Balcony: Open for Self-Guided Tours
  • Theatre Orchestra: Closed As Of the Time of Writing
  • Admission: A Token $3.00 (Excludes Access to Petersen's House and the Aftermath Exhibits)
  • Virtual Tour: If One Can't Attend in Person, One Can Take A Virtual Tour Of the Theater
  • Working Theater: Today Ford's Theatre is a Working Theater

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Petersen's House

Another important part of the Ford's Theatre National Historic Site is Petersen's House where President Lincoln succumbed to his injuries. Here one can visit and learn about the people who gathered around him that night.

  • Note: As At the Time Of Writing, Petersen's House is Closed

Having been shot, he was carried into the boarding house across the street. The night that people had come for a night of celebration transformed into a tragic night of vigil. People gathered outside the house in support of their stricken president. The doctor tending to the President updated the crowd every hour on the president's condition.

At 7.22 am on April 15, 1865, he updated the crowd one last time that the President was no more.

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In Lincoln's final hours he was surrounded by his wife and various government officials. Meanwhile, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton proceeded to convert one of the rooms of the house into an interrogation office and interviewed the witnesses to learn what happened.

Petersen House subsequently changed from a family home in a museum and now it is a historic site.

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