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History of Ford's Theatre

Discussion in 'Campfire Chat - General Discussions' started by Bonny Blue Flag, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. Bonny Blue Flag

    Bonny Blue Flag 2nd Lieutenant

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    1833:
    The First Baptist Church of Washington is constructed. It is also known as the "Tenth Street Baptist Church" to distinguish it from other churches in the D.C. area.

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    1859:
    The First Baptist Church desides to merge with the nearby Fourth Baptist Church in order to gain a larger congregation. The building is then vacated and remains unoccupied for 2 yrs, needing minor repairs.

    1861:
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    John T. Ford, a theatre manager from Baltimore, leases out the abandoned First Baptist Church building for 5 yrs with an option to buy at the end of that period. Ford rent the theatre to George Christy who performs there with a group of minstrels until 1862.

    Christy advertises the theatre as "The George Christy Opera House", since it is unnamed at this point. Christy does not make any interior structural changes to the building, and the basic seating structure, including church pews and a single balcony remain intact.

    1862:
    On February 28th, Ford closes the theatre for renovations to remodel the stage for theatrical and musical productions. He spends more than $10,000 and reopens the theatre on March 19th. Ford names the theatre, "Ford's Athenaeum". On December 30th, the original exterior is destroyed by a fire caused by a defective gas meter. Luckily, no one is hurt in the fire, but Ford estimates the damages to total around $20,000.

    1863:
    John T. Ford builds a new theatre, calling it, "Ford's New Theatre". The grand opening takes place on August 27th with a sold out performance of "The Naiad Queen". The theatre becomes a popular spot for locals, tourists and Lincoln. In November, Lincoln enjoys a performance of "The Marble Heart", starring a 24-yr-old John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln will attend Ford's theatre a total of 8 times in the next 2 yrs.

    1864:
    John T. Ford remains the manager and property owner of the building, and continues to restore the building througout the summer. He hires a new crew and reputable actors full time.

    Spring of 1865:
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    On April 14th, Lincoln and his wife Mary and a few guests share a box stage left at Ford's for a performance of "Our American Cousin". John T. Ford's brother, James, is left in charge of the theatre that night.

    During intermission, Lincoln's bodyguard goes to the lobby bar for a drink but does not return for the start of Act 3. John Wilkes Booth enters Ford's through a backstage door with the help of a stagehand and proceeds to Lincoln's box. Around 10:15 PM, during the beginning of Act 3 Scene 2, Booth aims his gun and shoots Lincoln in the back of the head by his left ear.

    Lincoln is rushed to the Peterson House across the street where he succumbs to his wounds early the next morning. Booth escapes until he is apprehended by authorities 12 days later.

    Summer of 1865:

    Following Lincoln's assasination, military guards are posted at the entrance of the theatre and access is permitted only by a special pass from the Judge Advocate's Office, War Department. Ford recieves official permission to re-open the theatre after the hanging of the conspirators occurs on July 7th.

    On July 10th, Ford premiers "The Octoroon" and sells more than 200 tickets. Troops of soldiers are stationed at the entrance to the theatre to help avoid any issues that may arise.

    After recieving an anonymous letter threatening to burn down the theatre if it reopens as a place of amusement, Ford is forced to refund all patrons. Shortly thereafter, the theatre is taken over by the government and converted into a 3-story office building. Ford is paid $1,500 per month for the lease of his theatre until Congress can purchase it from him.

    1866:
    In July, after leasig the theatre for just over 1 yr, Congress pays Ford $88,000 as a final settlement from the Treasury Department for the purchase of the structure. After the building is taken over, the Quartermaster General begins to convert the theatre into a fully functional three-story office building for use by the government. The building housed the Army Medical Museum, the Office of the Surgeon General and the War Department.

    1893:
    On June 9th, a 40-ft section of the front of the building collapses from the third floor, hurling men, desks and file cases into the cellar of the building. 22 government employees are killed, while 65 are injured. Further investigation shows the cause of the collapse was due to overloading the floor and negligence of the building contractor, who was excavating under pillars located in the cellar without sufficient support for the floors above. After the investigation, Ford's is closed a an office structure.

    1931 - 1933:
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    Over this 2-year period, the building is turned over the Department of the Interior. It becomes known as the "Lincoln Museum", and the first floor if the building is open to the public. On June 10th, 1933, the building is transferred to the National Park Service, which it remains affiliated with today.

    1968:

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    In January, Ford's Theatre reopens officially as a National Historic Site and a working theatre. A dedication ceremony and gala headed by Helen Hayes, Henry Fonda and other celebrities occurs to commemorate this landmark. On February 13th, Ford's Theatre is officially reopened to the general public. In April, "She Stoops to Conquer" marks the first performance to occur in more than 100 yrs at Ford's.

    2007:
    In August, Ford's Theatre closes for its first renovation and restoration since 1968. The renovation takes 18 months. There were improvements to the heating/air conditioning, lighting and sound systems, new seats,new restrooms, a new lobby, an upgraded museum and the addition of an elevator.

    2009:
    In February, the renovations are completed and Ford's Theatre reopens. In July, Ford's Theatre Museum officially opens to the general public. A new lobby with a concession stand and a Board Room for special events has been built.

    In honor of the Lincoln Bicentennial, Ford's Theatre commissions and produces the world premier of "The Heavens are Hung in Black", a play by James Still chronicaling Lincoln's precidency. Ford's also hosts a grand opening gala attended by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, featuring appearances by Katie Couric, Kelsey Grammar, Jeffrey Wright and countless others. Audra MacDonald and Jessye Norman perform.

    2012:

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    In February 2012, Ford's Theatre opened the new Center for Education and Leadership, where visitors can explore the lasting effects of Lincoln's presidencey. 2 floors of the exhibit will address the immediate aftermath of the assasination and will feature funeral artifacts that have never before been displayed for public viewing.

    2 floors of education studios will house post-visit workshops, after-school programs and a section for teacher/professional development. A distance-learning lab will allow Ford's to engage students and teachers nationwide through the use of state-of-the-art technology.

    A Leadership Gallery floor wil be used a a short-term exhibit, lecture and reception space. The opening of the Center will complete the Ford's Theatre expansion project to give visitors an enhanced experience on Lincoln's life and legacy.

    Source:
    www.fordstheatre.org/home
    Images of Ford's Theatre - Report Images.

    --BBF

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  3. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

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    I just conducted a search of John t Ford on wiki, it had some info I wasnt aware of. According to the article, Ford was in Richmond at the time of the assination and he was arrested on April 18 at his home in Baltimore. Suspect in the assination plot. Two brothers of his were also arrested. He wrote several letters to Stanton trying to be freed to no avail. After being incarcerated for 39 days and receiving harsh treatment he was freed due to lack of evidence. According to the article, it was decades before he would forgive the US Government.
  4. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Thank you for this informative post Bonny! :D
  5. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Very informative post. Thanks.
  6. kholland

    kholland 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Great post, Bonnie Blue. I saw a play there back in the 80's and I noticed my gaze was occasionally wandering toward the Presidential box.
  7. FourLeafClover

    FourLeafClover First Sergeant

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    I like that they have kept the presidential box(replica). But like kholland I fear mine and others attention would be drawn there. Even with the house lights down, that would probably creep it out even further:unsure:
  8. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

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    The chair that Lincoln was sitting on when he was killed is in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The government seized it after the assination and eventually gave it back to the owner, one of the Ford Brothers who owned the theater who were no relation to henry ford. In 1929 Henry Ford bought the chair at a auction for 2400 dollars. You become awe struck when you view it. Probably a few hundred yards away is the Limo Kennedy was in when he was killed. Incredible history in one museum,
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  9. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    At the NPS lecture inside the theater, They mention that at one postwar period the building also became a stable.
  10. DanF

    DanF First Sergeant

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    Ok, I need to go back to do some more genealogical research. previously I had only researched my immediate line of descent. My branch of the Ford's left Baltimore right after the revolutionary war. other members of the family remained in Baltimore. When I found out That the Ford that owned the Theater came from Baltimore I suspected he was probably a relative. That picture leaves me no doubt. take away those side burns and that pic is a dead ringer for one of my brothers.
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  11. Bonny Blue Flag

    Bonny Blue Flag 2nd Lieutenant

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    Deleson1 and Prroh,

    Thanks so much for the added information!

    --BBF
  12. kholland

    kholland 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    One ironic thing that happened is that when the Booth family had the body turned over to them in 1869 they called to their assistance Harvey & Marr, undertakers, of Washington, who went to the Arsenal grounds and exhumed the remains. Edwin Booth accompanied a Mr. Weaver from Baltimore, and with Mr. Harvey went to the Arsenal grounds to exhume Booth's body. The body was then taken to the Harvey & Marr establishment, at No. 940 F Street, which is in an alley in the rear of Ford's Theater, almost to the very door from which he started on the night of April 14, 1865.
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  13. Bonny Blue Flag

    Bonny Blue Flag 2nd Lieutenant

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    Coincidence? Due justice?

    Thanks kholland

    --BBF
  14. kholland

    kholland 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    or maybe just what goes around, comes around!
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  15. mulejack

    mulejack Sergeant

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    Another vedry informative post. Thans a bunch

    Mulejack
  16. kholland

    kholland 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Sometimes looking like a relative skips a couple of generations. My high school photo looks remarkably like a photo of my grandfather in a WWI uniform.

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