On April 9, 1865, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, effectively ending the Civil War. This enraged actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer who’d been planning for more than a year to kidnap or assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Five days later, on April 14, President Lincoln went with his wife Mary Todd to see a performance of the comedy “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre. At the moment of the play’s biggest laugh line, Booth stepped into the president’s box and shot him in the back of the head. Then he jumped down to the stage, breaking his leg, and escaped. He was tracked down by the Union Army less than two weeks later and killed while resisting capture.
Today Ford’s Theatre is two things: a National Historic Site and museum devoted to Lincoln’s presidency, and an active theater putting on a full season of shows every year. The museum, redesigned and reopened July 15, 2009, uses historic artifacts, environmental recreations, videos, and sculptural figures to tell the story of the election of 1860, Lincoln’s cabinet, the conduct of the war, the Gettysburg Address, the election of 1864 and the second inauguration, and the assassination.
Although admission to the museum is free, you do need a timed ticket. The Ford’s Theatre Box Office opens at 8:30 a.m. for distribution of free same-day, timed tickets. Individuals are limited to six tickets per person for same-day tickets.
For more information about Ford’s Theatre, visit www.fordstheatre.org.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: A limited number of free day-of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Box Office beginning at 8:30 a.m. Advance reservations (available for a small fee) are recommended during tourist season.
Parking: There are several privately run pay garages nearby.
Metrorail: Red Line or Green and Yellow Line to Gallery Place/Chinatown, or Red Line or Orange and Blue Line to Metro Center.
Old Town Trolley