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Ford's Theatre

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The history...

Ford's Theatre holds an important place in American history as the site of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

The theater was originally constructed in 1833 as the First Baptist Church of Washington. In 1861, John T. Ford, a Baltimore theater manager, purchased the building and converted it into a theater, which opened in 1863. Ford's Theatre quickly became a prominent cultural hub, hosting numerous plays and performances that drew audiences from across the city.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Ford's Theatre became the setting for one of the most tragic events in American history. President Abraham Lincoln attended a performance of the comedy "Our American Cousin" at the theater. During the performance, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer, entered the presidential box and shot President Lincoln. Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the following morning on April 15, 1865.

The assassination of President Lincoln shocked the nation and deeply impacted the course of American history. Following the tragic event, Ford's Theatre was closed and the government used it as office space for the War Department and later for the Army Medical Museum. In 1893, part of the building collapsed, resulting in further casualties.

In the 20th century, efforts were made to restore Ford's Theatre to its former glory. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1932, and a major restoration project was completed in 1968. The theater reopened as a working theater and a museum dedicated to Lincoln's legacy and the Civil War era.

Today, Ford's Theatre continues to serve as both a performance venue and a place of historical reflection. Visitors can explore exhibits detailing the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the events of his assassination, and the broader context of the Civil War.

The Petersen House and the theater are preserved together as Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service.

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