Note: The theater and its tiny museum are closed for renovation, with the aim of reopening in time to mark Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. Realistically? It might not make that date. But the Petersen House across the street remains open. For background purposes, here's what you'll want to know:
On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was in the audience at Ford's Theatre, one of the most popular playhouses in Washington. Everyone was laughing at a funny line from Tom Taylor's celebrated comedy, Our American Cousin, when John Wilkes Booth crept into the president's box, shot the president, and leapt to the stage, shouting, "Sic semper tyrannis!" ("Thus ever to tyrants!"). With his left leg broken from the vault, Booth mounted his horse in the alley and galloped off. Doctors carried Lincoln across the street to the house of William Petersen, where the president died the next morning.
The theater was closed after Lincoln's assassination and used as an office by the War Department. In 1893, 22 clerks were killed when three floors of the building collapsed. It remained in disuse until the 1960s, when it was remodeled and restored to its appearance on the night of the tragedy.
- © Frommer's 2013
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