Ford’s Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Ford’s Theatre

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Ford Theatre was the site where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

Antara Bate

09 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Sean Pavone /

About Ford’s Theatre

It was in Ford’s Theatre on the night of 14 April 1865 that well-known actor John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln.

Ford’s Theatre history

Originally named Ford’s New Theatre, Ford’s was built by Baltimore theater entrepreneur John T. Ford on the site of the First Baptist Church. Built in 1833, the church had been abandoned in 1859, and Ford had converted the building into Ford’s Atheneum in 1862, but the Atheneum had burned later that year.

Construction on the site as it is today began in 1863 overseen by James J. Gifford. It was modeled after the design of Baltimore’s Holliday Street Theatre.

A Confederate sympathiser and spy, Booth had originally planned to kidnap Lincoln, but instead shot the President in the back of the head as he watched Ford’s Theatre’s production of “Our American Cousin” from the state box (box seven). President Lincoln was the first American President to be assassinated.

Following Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Ford briefly considered continuing to use the building as a theatre, but outcry from the American public forced him to abandon the idea. The still-unfinished building was seized in July of 1865 by order of the Secretary of War, and its interior was torn out in August of 1865.

The building was subsequently converted into a three-story office building housing the Army Medical Museum and Surgeon General. Rather than being recognized for its historical significance, the building was used for a variety of government purposes over the course of several decades. In 1893, a section of the interior collapsed, killing 22 people, and alterations to the building, including the facade, followed in 1894.

After many years of serving as storage space, Ford’s Theatre was transferred to the ownership of the National Park Service in 1931, and in 1967, the building was restored to its 1865 appearance. Currently, the building continues to stage plays and operate as a theatre, in addition to hosting a museum relating to the Lincoln assassination.

Since its reopening in 1968, Ford’s Theatre has produced plays and musicals celebrating the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and exploring the American experience.

Ford’s Theatre today

Ford’s Theatre is now an operating theatre house as well as a museum showcasing a variety of historical artefacts related to Lincoln’s presidency, his assassination and his life in Washington. Ford’s Theatre also stands across the street from Petersen House, where the President was taken following the shooting and where he subsequently died.

Getting to Ford’s Theatre history

Ford’s Theatre is conveniently located near the Metro Center and Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stations. For visitors driving, an independent parking garage is located directly next to the theatre; however, the elevator to our lobby is currently closed to limit crowding in our lobby. Visitors will need to use the garage’s F street elevators and then walk one block to 10th Street to enter Ford’s Theatre. Parking fees are not validated

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