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Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre under guard after the assassination.


On the night of April 14, 1865, Secretary of War Stanton ordered guards to be posted at the theatre, and all future dramatic productions were canceled. In June, the building was restored to John T. Ford who advertised that the theatre would be reopened. This announcement aroused public indignation, and the War Department ordered the building closed. Ford threatened legal proceedings, whereupon the Government rented the building for $1,500 a month until June 1, 1866, with the privilege of purchasing it for $100,000. The necessary funds were provided by Congress in the Deficiency Appropriation Acts of July 7, 1865, and April 7,1866.

Soon after renting the property, the Government began remodeling the theatre into an office and storage building. On August 17, 1865, a contract was awarded for altering the interior of the building. The ornate woodwork of the stage and balconies was removed and the building was divided into three floors. This work was completed on November 27, 1865. The building was occupied by the Record and Pension Bureau of the War Department in April 1866. The Army Medical Museum was located on the third floor from 1867 to 1887.

On the morning of June 9, 1893, a second tragedy occurred in the old theatre building. Excavation in the basement for the installation of an electric plant weakened the foundations of the structure and caused the three floors to collapse. Employees of the Record and Pension Bureau were at work when the crash occurred. Clerks, desks, and heavy file cases fell into the basement. Twenty-two persons were killed and 68 injured in the catastrophe. The interior of the building was restored the following year.

On July 1, 1928, the building was transferred from the War Department to the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital and utilized for storage purposes. That office was absorbed by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, by Executive order of June 10, 1933.

Ford's Theatre

Restoration of Ford's Theatre

Beginning in 1946, a number of bills were introduced in Congress to restore Ford's Theatre to its original appearance as of the night of April 14, 1865. No action was taken until 1960. however, when funds were appropriated for research and architectural study of the building. Final approval for full restoration of the theatre did not come until July 7, 1964. when the 88th Congress voted $2,073,600 for this purpose. To carry out the work, the Lincoln Museum, which had occupied the building since 1932, was closed and the exhibits were removed.

On February 13, 1968, after 3 years during which the interior of the building was rebuilt section by section, Ford's Theatre was reopened to the public. The furnishings throughout are either original items or true reproductions based on contemporary photographs, sketches, and drawings, newspaper articles, official reports, and samples of wallpaper and curtain material from museum collections. Except for the original crimson damask sofa, the furniture in the Presidential box was duplicated especially for the restoration. The flags displayed across the front of the box are also reproductions, but the framed engraving of George Washington is the original used on the night of the assassination.

Theatrical plays were reintroduced in Ford's Theatre soon after it was reopened and have continued in season with scheduled afternoon and evening performances. When plays are not in progress, visitors in groups are seated in the first floor auditorium, where a sound-and-light presentation recreates the atmosphere of Civil War-time Washington. The history of the theatre and the assassination are dramatically described against the setting of the reconstructed stage and boxes.

performer at Ford's Theatre


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