DC
Ford's Theatre

Description And Comments

Ford’s Theatre was opened in 1861 as a venue hosting stage productions. What it is best known for, however, is 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 he was attacked by John Wilkes Booth – an actor who often graced the theater’s stage. President Lincoln was removed to the Peterson House directly across the street, where he died the following day.

Following that tragic event, Ford’s Theatre was closed…for over 100 years. It didn’t reopen until it was deemed a national historic site in 1968, and from then forward has acted as both a working theater as well as 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 on that fateful night, the play’s program, the murder weapon, and John Wilkes Booth’s diary, among many other pieces of interest. 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 planned-yet-never-attempted assassination of Vice President Andrew Johnson and the non-fatal stabbing of Secretary of State William Seward).

Visiting Ford’s Theatre is free, but a ticket is required. The easiest way to get a ticket is to do so on the theatre’s website (via Ticketmaster), and although the Ford’s Theatre site claims a charge of $2.50 is added for advance tickets, Ticketmaster will bump that up to $4.25, $10.25 if you opt for the audio tour (click “Select Prices” on the left to see the non-audio tour option). Advance tickets are generally available a few days in advance during all but the busiest times and tickets go on sale anywhere from 1-4 months in advance. A small amount 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.

All Ford’s Theatre tickets include admission to the Peterson House and the Center for Education and Leadership, both across 10th Street from the theatre. The Peterson House is more commonly referred to by the disturbingly descriptive moniker “The House Where Lincoln Died.” 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 everlasting impact of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

If you are in the mood to see a play in this historic space, Ford’s Theatre also regularly puts on performances that are open to the public with tickets ranging from about $27 up to about $108 (including Ticketmaster fees) depending on the performance. Thankfully, Ford’s Theatre has yet to put on another performance of Our American Cousin, a presentation that would definitely give us the creeps.

Another option for guests who want a little more interactivity with their history is History on Foot: Detective James McDevitt. This walking tour leads guests form Ford’s Theatre to the White House with an actor portraying the Washington Metropolitan Police detective and describing his investigation following the President’s assassination. The tour is $20 including Ticketmaster fees and do not include admission into Ford’s Theatre.


Rating

Location
511 10th St NW
Washington, D.C.
Penn Quarter - Chinatown - Judiciary Square
Metro Center

Hours
9am-4:30pm

Price
Free