Ford’s Theatre was opened in 1861 as a venue hosting stage productions. It is best known for the infamous shooting of President Abraham Lincoln. On the evening of April 14, 1865, the president was at Ford’s Theatre to view a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin when John Wilkes Booth—an actor who often worked the theater’s stage—shot Lincoln in the head. Lincoln was taken to the Peterson House directly across the street, where he died the following day.
Following that tragic event, Ford’s Theatre was closed for more than 100 years. It didn’t reopen until it was deemed a national historic site in 1968. Since then, it has acted as both a working theater and a museum dedicated to President Lincoln’s final days, his murderer, and the conspiracy surrounding the assassination.
Exhibits display the clothes Abraham Lincoln wore to the show that night, the play’s program, the murder weapon, and John Wilkes Booth’s diary, among other artifacts. The museum also examines the conspiracy surrounding the assassination, including Booth’s gang of Confederate sympathizers, their initial kidnapping plot, and the synchronized murders that were supposed to coincide with the president’s (including the non-fatal stabbing of Secretary of State William Seward and the not-attempted assassination of Vice President Andrew Johnson).
Admission to Ford’s Theatre is free and Includes the Peterson House
Admission to Ford’s Theatre includes entry to the Peterson House and the Center for Education and Leadership, both across 10th Street from the theater. The Peterson House is more commonly referred to as “The House Where Lincoln Died” (it’s true). Inside are displays about the president’s final hours and the ultimately unsuccessful fight to save his life. Next door to the Peterson House, the Center for Education and Leadership explores the aftermath of the assassination, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, and the lasting impacts of Lincoln’s presidency.
If you’re in the mood to see a play, Ford’s Theatre also regularly puts on performances that are open to the public. Tickets range from about $27 to about $108 (including Ticketmaster fees), depending on the performance.
Visiting Ford’s Theatre is free, but a ticket is required. The easiest way to get a ticket is via the theater’s website (through Ticketmaster). Tickets are available anywhere from one to four months in advance. Advance tickets are generally available a few days ahead on all but the busiest times. A small number of tickets are distributed at the theater box office for same-day visits, but these tickets are first-come, first-served and not guaranteed to be available.
Ford’s Theatre is located at 511 Tenth St. NW in Washington, D.C. 20004. Fore more information visit the website.
For information on all museums in our nation’s capital, check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. by Eve Zibart, Renee Sklarew, and Len Testa.
Outside of Ford’s Theatre: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons