Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. is well known as the site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Confederate John Wilkes Booth shot the president while he was sitting in the president’s box in this theater. President Lincoln was taken across the street to the Petersen boarding house where he died. The Petersen house is under renovation and will open again fro tours in the spring of 2011.
Abraham Lincoln was shot five days after General Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House. The actor John Wilkes Booth was trying to change the course of history in favor of the Confederacy. Unfortunately, the National Park Service mentions that President Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated. That there have been others is not a credit to our country.
A National Historic site and active theater.
The theater is a National Historic Site which was opened to visitors in 1968. It is an operating theater which presents several productions each year. Tours are free, as the building and the museum are operated by the National Park Service, but tickets are required, as it is one of the most popular tourist sites in Washington, D.C.
Either the National Park Service or the Ford’s Theater Society will provide an introductory presentation as part of the tour. Ford’s Theater presents a half hour program called “One Destiny” which tells the events which surrounded the assassination. Each program is about a half hour long, and they will give an excellent overview of the events of that historic day.
There are two walking tours which give in depth understanding of the events.
Investigation: Detective McDevitt
Detective James McDevitt leads the tour of the sites in the neighborhood and discusses clues from the investigation into the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy. This two hour tour makes eight stops along the 1.4 miles from Ford’s Theater to the White House. Walk along with this detective who was on duty just half a block from the theater when the president was assassinated.
A Free Black Woman: Elizabeth Keckly
Elizabeth Keckly was Mary Todd’s dresser and dressmaker, and formed unusual friendship with the first lady. Elizabeth Keckly bought her freedom after 35 years of slavery, and became dressmaker to many of the important women of Washington. She helped former slaves as they arrived in the city. This walking tour is about 90 minutes and about 1.5 miles long.
The theater has been restored beautifully. It is well worth a visit to take a tour of the building, go on a walking tour, or attend one of the theater productions.
Ford’s Theater is definitely a place to tour when visiting Washington, D.C., but check before you go to see which tours are available, and whether a play is being presented at the theater, as activities change with the seasons.