Ford’s Theatre was opened in 1861 in a converted church by theatre entrepreneur John T. Ford, in an area that attracted Washington notables from their mansions in Lafayette Square.
It proved a popular draw until 14 April 1865 when the president, Abraham Lincoln was shot during a performance of Our American Cousin. The actor and Southern sympathiser John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box and shot Lincoln in the head before jumping over the balcony, getting tangled in the flag and breaking his leg. Despite this, he escaped on horseback and was only caught and killed 12 days later by US troops.
The theatre was initially draped in black as a mark of respect and closed while the conspirators were pursued, caught and tried. Ford wanted to reopen it but received death threats. In the 1960s it was finally restored to its previous condition and now works better as a museum to that event than as an actual theatre.
The theatre hosts one hour talks in which you can visit the box Lincoln was shot in (usually Thurs, Sat and Sun, hourly, 9.15am to 4.15 pm). The basement has a museum, with a display that includes the actual weapon used to kill the president – a .44 Derringer – as well as Booth artefacts.
(Daily 9am-5pm, free, tel: 426 6924, www.nps.gov/foth)