A national treasure for all Americans, Ford's Theater is a 19th century structure located on 10th street in Washington, D. C.. It is a living tribute to President Abraham Lincoln's love of the performing arts.
The active, legitimate theater is a national historic and cultural site welcoming visitors from across the nation. It produces musicals and plays, which embody family values, underscore multiculturalism, and illuminate the eclectic character of American life.
The building was founded in 1833 as the First Baptist Church of Washington. In 1861, the congregation leased it to John T. Ford, an extremely successful theatrical entrepreneur from Baltimore.
He converted the church into a music hall called Ford's Athenaeum." But, a fire destroyed the building in 1862.
It was reconstructed in the following year as "Ford's New Theater." The first performance in the new venue took place on August 27, 1863.
This was the site where Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth, during a performance of Our American Cousin, on April 14, 1865. The theater and the Petersen House (located across the street), where he died the next morning, are preserved together as Ford's Theater National Historic Site.
Misfortune struck again in 1893 when all three floors collapsed killing 22 workers and injuring 68. From then until 1931, the building was used as a government warehouse.
The Federal Government bought the building from Ford in 1866. During 1866-1887, the building served as the home of the War Department records on first floor, the National Library of Medicine on second floor, and the Army Medical Museum.
In February 1968, the restored theater opened its doors to public. Since then it has been both an active theater and a historic site.
The Lincoln Museum, built in 1932, located in the basement-level, contains portions of the Olroyd Collection of Lincolniana. It displays objects associated with Lincolns early years, public career, and the presidential years.
The collection also includes the clothes he wore that fateful night, the pistol that ended his life, and the flag that draped his coffin.
Through education and community outreach programs, Ford's Theater now serves a large, diverse population with differing backgrounds, ages, and economic means.
Programs range from interactive workshops for inner-city students, to teacher and student guides, to performances complemented by American Sign Language or audio description.
Since 1977, Ford's Theater subsidized ticket program, The Discovery, a vital part of community outreach, has introduced more than 100,000 economically disadvantaged young people to what is for many, their first theatrical performance.
The "Opening Act" program, an innovative series led by professional theater instructors, combines exercises, discussion, and improvisation as learning tools for the younger generation.