Ford’s Theater

WHERE: Ford’s Theater, 10th Street NW, Washington D.C.

WHAT: The theater where Lincoln was assassinated while watching the play: My American Cousin.

Ford’s Theater was originally a Baptist Church which John Ford bought to use as a theater. John Wilkes Booth was an actor who had performed at the theater (one reason why guards/cast etc. weren’t that suspicious when they saw him walking around back stage. The performance that Lincoln watched on that fateful night was the last performance at the theater for 103 years. Not only is the theater now a museum, but you can also attend plays there once again.

I remember the first time I saw it, being surprised at how small it was.

Tickets are free (as are many tickets in Washington), but you need to reserve them ahead of time.

KID FACTOR: If the hundreds of kids milling around on school field trips is any indication, it’s very kid appealing. Seriously, it is interesting to kids. Exhibits such as the death mask add to the appeal.

Once I got home and looked at my pictures, I was sorry I did not get one that showed more of the perspective of size and Lincoln’s box distance from the stage.

So I dug up a previous post I wrote about the theater …

Here it is – some repeat information, but …

Ford’s Theatre is probably the most well-known theater in America – the place where John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln.

The theater is located in Washington D.c. and opened in 1860 … well, actually it opened as the First Baptist Church of Washington in 1833. When the church moved on, a John T. Ford (sounds like a car) bought the church and opened it as Ford’s Athenaeum. That building burned down in 1862, but it was rebuilt and opened again as Ford’s Theater “a magnificent new thespian temple.”

Five days after General Lee surrendered, Abe and Mary went to the theater to see a performance of Our American Cousin. John Wilkes Booth entered the Lincoln box and shot the president. The President was immediately carried outside to 10th Street. Already there was massive chaos. (The theater seated 2,400.) A man stood on the steps of Peterson’s Boarding House, crying “Bring him in here. Bring him in here.” And that’s what they did, taking him to a back bedroom and putting him on a too-short bed. Meanwhile, Mary Lincoln was brought across the street by Clara Harris who had been at the theater with her finance Henry Rathbone. Henry himself was stabbed by Booth and once he reached the boarding house, he collapsed.

All night they worked on Lincoln, removing blood clots and fluid from his wound. But the next morning at 7:22, Lincoln died at the age of 56.

We went to Ford’s Theater on my parents’ fiftieth anniversary trip. The picture of the theater isn’t that great – but the box where the Lincolns sat is marked by the American flag. The theater also includes a museum which includes the coat Lincoln was wearing and a replica of the chair. (The real chair is in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan – which I’ve also been to – but I won’t do a post about it because the chair looks like this chair since this chair is a replica of that chair.)

We also went across the street to the boarding house which is now part of the National Park Center and has been set up as it was the night Lincoln died.

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