Petersen House - History and Facts | History Hit

Petersen House

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Petersen House was the site where President Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 after being shot across the street at Ford Theatre.

Peta Stamper

14 Apr 2021
Image Credit: EQRoy/

About Petersen House

Petersen House was the boarding house in Washington DC where President Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot across the road at Ford’s Theatre on the night of 14 April 1865. The President died the morning after arriving at Peterson House.

The Peterson House Museum offers its visitors a brief tour including the room where Lincoln died as well as viewing various historical artefacts relating to his assassination. Visitors to Peterson House can also tour Ford Theatre, the scene of Lincoln’s assassination.

Petersen House history

The Petersen House was built in 1849 in the federal style of row house by William A. Petersen, a German tailor, as a boarding house. On 14 April 1865, then-President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd were watching a performance at Ford’s Theatre across the street when the president was shot by actor and Southern sympathiser, John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln was examined in the box at the theatre before he was carried across the street to the Petersen House where a boarder, Henry Safford, brought them inside. Surrounded by cabinet member and his wife, Lincoln died of his bullet wound to the head the next morning.

After the assassination, the boarding house and room where Lincoln had died were visited by tourists. Petersen remained in the house until his death in 1871 and the house transferred ownership multiple times until the 1930s when the public demanded it be restored to its 1865 appearance, although it was already being used as a privately owned museum.

Since 1993 the Petersen House has been maintained by the National Park Service as a historical museum, recreating what the home would have looked like at the time of Lincoln’s death. The bed Lincoln occupied as well as other bedroom furniture had been bought by Chicago collector Charles F. Gunther, taken to the Chicago History Museum, so replicas were used at Petersen House instead.

Petersen House today

Standing beside Ford’s Theatre, today the Petersen House continues to welcome visitors wishing to understand the assassination of President Lincoln. After exploring the reconstructed boarding house room, you can walk across to the Centre for Education and Leadership – which opened in 2012 – that highlights the aftermath of Lincoln’s death and his legacy.

Admission to the Petersen House is free but usually requires a timed ticket.

Getting to Petersen House

The easiest way to reach the Petersen House is via Washington DC’s Metro. The closest stop is Metro Center on the M orange, red and silver lines and is a 3 minute walk to the house. The nearest bus stop is 11th St & E ST NW on many major bus routes including, 63, 64, 543, 725, 810, 820 and 830. It is 2 minutes walk away. Buses 54 and 59 also stop close by.

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