Few American presidents capture our imagination or have risen to such mythic proportions as President Abraham Lincoln. From his humble beginnings in a log cabin on the frontier of Kentucky, to his leadership during the darkest hours of the Civil War, his determination to hold the Union together during such a bloody conflict was, and is still, inspiring to so many of us. His legacy is counted through countless events including the Emancipation Proclamation and the eventual passage of the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. And sadly, one of President Lincoln’s most enduring legacies was his tragic assassination, becoming the first American President to be killed while in office.
Although countless monuments, memorials, and museums celebrate his place in our nation’s history, none connect visitors to President Lincoln’s legacy quite like Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site serves as a place where the violent events of April 14-15, 1865 can be experienced almost first hand.
|The Presidential Box|
Three key pieces make up this experience at the National Historic Site. First, there is Ford’s Theatre. The historic shell of the building is all that truly remains of the actual theatre that President Lincoln attended on that fateful night in April. But, the interior was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1960’s to the exact detail during President Lincoln’s lifetime. The presidential box, where President Lincoln sat, is eerily identical to the grainy black and white images taken of the box following the assassination. From crown molding to historic paint colors, walking into Ford's Theatre is like being transported back in time.
Another piece to this immersive experience is the National Historic Site’s museum collection on display in the Theatre’s basement. This exhibit space houses one-of-a-kind artifacts associated with President Lincoln, his assassination, and the conspirators. A lot of these artifacts were collected as evidence by the War Department following the assassination, and include the infamous Dillinger gun used by John Wilkes Booth.
|Sign at the Petersen Boarding House|
The third and final piece is across 10th Street, at the Peterson Boarding House, the house where Lincoln Died. This is the actual house where Lincoln was carried, and later died, after the fatal shot. The house quickly became a national shrine and place of pilgrimage - and little has changed since April 15, 1865. Like the different pieces of evidence in a murder mystery novel, all three pieces of this National Historic Site connect the visitor not only to the tragic story of President Lincoln’s death, but to the places where these historic events unfolded.
It is estimated that over 15,000 books have been written about Lincoln. Countless movies from the recent Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter to the more critically acclaimed Lincoln continue to keep Hollywood occupied. Despite all these efforts to bring the story of President Lincoln to life, nothing comes close to the personal connections and experiences one can make during a trip to Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.