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Fodor's Washington, D.C. 2014
Ford's Theatre National Historic Site
Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Review
The events that took place here on the night of April 14, 1865, shocked the nation. During a performance of Our American Cousin, John Wilkes Booth entered the state box at Ford's Theatre and shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head. The stricken president was carried across the street to the house of tailor William Petersen. Charles Augustus Leale, a 23-year-old surgeon, was the first man to attend the president. To let Lincoln know that someone was nearby, Leale held his hand throughout the night. Lincoln died the next morning. The theater and Petersen's house are now the anchors of an ambitious block-long, Lincoln-centered cultural campus commemorating the president. The theater, which stages performances throughout the year, is restored to look as it did when Lincoln attended, including the presidential box draped with flags as it was on the night he was shot. The portrait of George Washington on the box is the same one over which Lincoln sat; its frame has a nick made by Wilkes's spur as he leapt from the box to the stage. In the restored Petersen House you can see the room where Lincoln died and the parlor where his wife, Mary Todd, waited in anguish through the night.
The centerpiece of the Center for Education and Leadership is a jaw-dropping, three-story tower of 6,800 books written about Lincoln. In the center, visitors take an immersive step back in time, to April 15, 1865, entering a 19th-century street scene where they find a reproduction of Lincoln's funeral train car and see its route to Springfield, Illinois. Visitors also learn about the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators' trial, and they interact with an "escape map" to the tobacco barn where Booth was captured. Exhibits also explore the fate of Lincoln's family after his death, explain the milestones of reconstruction, and describe Lincoln's legacy and his enduring impact on U.S. and world leaders. A visit ends with a multi-screened video wall that shows how Lincoln's ideas resonate today.
Visits to Ford's Theatre National Historic Site require a free, timed-entry ticket. Same-day tickets are available at the theater box office beginning at 8:30 am on a first-come, first-served basis. You can also reserve tickets in advance through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com) with a $2.50 fee per ticket.
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