|Address||511 10th St, NW|
|Owner||National Park Service|
|Operator||Ford's Theatre Society|
Ford's Theatre National Historic Site
|Area||0.29 acres (0.12 ha) (theater alone) less than one acre (entire NHS)|
|Architectural style||Late Victorian|
|NRHP Reference #||66000034|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 2013[dubious ]|
Ford's Theatre is a theater 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 mortally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the next morning.
The theater was later used as a warehouse and office building, and in 1893 part of it collapsed, causing 22 deaths. 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 the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. A related Center for Education and Leadership museum experience opened February 12, 2012 next to Petersen House.
The Petersen House and the theater are preserved together as Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service; programming within the theater and the Center for Education is overseen separately by the Ford's Theatre Society in a public-private partnership. Ford's Theatre is located at 511 10th Street, NW.
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 theater. He first called it Ford's Athenaeum. It was destroyed by fire in 1862, and was rebuilt
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 theater.
Following the assassination, the United States Government appropriated the theater, with Congress paying Ford $88,000 in compensation, and an order was issued forever prohibiting its use as a place of public amusement. Between 1866 and 1887, the theater 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.
On June 9, 1893, the front part of the building collapsed, killing 22 clerks and injuring another 68. This led some people to believe that the former church turned theater and storeroom was cursed. The building was repaired and used as a government warehouse until 1911.
It languished unused until 1918. In 1928, the building was turned over from the War Department Office to the Office of Public Buildings and Parks of the National Capital. A Lincoln museum opened on the first floor of the theater building on February 12, 1932—Lincoln's 123rd birthday. In 1933, the building was transferred to the National Park Service.
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 Representative 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.
On January 21, 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and 500 others dedicated the restored theater. The theater reopened on January 30, 1968, with a gala performance.
The theater was again renovated during the 2000s. It has a current seating capacity of 665. The re-opening ceremony was on February 11, 2009, which commemorated Lincoln's 200th birthday. The event featured remarks from President Barack Obama as well as appearances by Katie Couric, Kelsey Grammer, James Earl Jones, Ben Vereen, Jeffrey Wright, the President's Own Marine Band, Joshua Bell, Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music, Audra McDonald and Jessye Norman.
|John Wilkes Booth|
Booth c. 1865
|Born||May 10, 1838|
Bel Air, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||April 26, 1865 (aged 26)|
Port Royal, Virginia, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound|
|Resting place||Green Mount Cemetery,|
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Other names||J.B. Wilkes|
|Known for||Assassination of Abraham Lincoln|
John Wilkes Booth (May 10, 1838 – April 26, 1865) was an American actor and assassin, who murderedPresident 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. He was also a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln, and strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Booth and a group of co-conspirators originally plotted to kidnap Lincoln but later planned to kill him, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered four days earlier, but Booth believed that the American Civil War was not yet over because Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's army was still fighting the Union Army.
Of the conspirators, only Booth was completely successful in carrying out his part of the plot. He shot Lincoln once in the back of the head, and the President died the next morning. Seward was severely wounded but recovered, and Vice-President Johnson was never attacked at all.
Following the assassination, Booth fled on horseback to southern Maryland, eventually making his way to a farm in rural northern Virginia 12 days later, where he was tracked down. Booth's companion gave himself up, but Booth refused and was shot by Boston Corbett, a Union soldier, after the barn in which he was hiding was set ablaze. Eight other conspirators or suspects were tried and convicted, and four were hanged shortly thereafter.
Background and early life
Booth's parents were noted British Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes, who moved to the United States from England in June 1821. They purchased a 150-acre (61 ha) farm near Bel Air, Maryland, where John Wilkes Booth was born in a four-room log houseon May 10, 1838, the ninth of ten children. He was named after English radical politician John Wilkes, a distant relative. Junius' wife Adelaide Delannoy Booth was granted a divorce in 1851 on grounds of adultery, and Holmes legally wed Junius on May 10, 1851, the youth's 13th birthday.
Nora Titone recounts in her book My Thoughts Be Bloody (2010) how the shame and ambition of Junius Brutus Booth's illegitimate actor sons Edwinand John Wilkes eventually spurred them to strive for achievement and acclaim as rivals—Edwin, a Unionist, and John Wilkes, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.
The same year that Booth's father married Holmes (1851), he built Tudor Hall on the Harford County property as the family's summer home, while also maintaining a winter residence on Exeter Street in Baltimore in the 1840s–1850s.
As a boy, Booth was athletic and popular, and he became skilled at horsemanship and fencing. He attended the Bel Air Academy (now Bel Air High School), a sometimes indifferent student whom the headmaster described as "not deficient in intelligence, but disinclined to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered him. Each day he rode back and forth from farm to school, taking more interest in what happened along the way than in reaching his classes on time". In 1850–1851, he attended the Quaker-run Milton Boarding School for Boys located in Sparks, Maryland and later St. Timothy's Hall, an Episcopal military academy in Catonsville, Maryland, beginning when he was 13 years old. At the Milton school, students recited classical works by such authors as Cicero, Herodotus, and Tacitus. Students at St. Timothy's wore military uniforms and were subject to a regimen of daily formation drills and strict discipline. Booth left school at 14, after his father's death.
While attending the Milton Boarding School, Booth met a Gypsy fortune-teller who read his palm and pronounced a grim destiny, telling Booth that he would have a grand but short life, doomed to die young and "meeting a bad end". His sister recalled that Booth wrote down the palm-reader's prediction, showed it to his family and others, and often discussed its portents in moments of melancholy in later years.
By the age of 16, Booth was interested in the theatre and in politics, and he became a delegate from Bel Air to a rally by the Know Nothing Party for Henry Winter Davis, the anti-immigrant party's candidate for Congress in the 1854 elections. Booth aspired to follow in the footsteps of his father and his actor brothers Edwin and Junius Brutus, Jr. He began practicing elocution daily in the woods around Tudor Hall and studying Shakespeare.