Currently the site of Go-Lo's Restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, this was once the boarding house of Mary Surratt and the meeting place for the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Led by John Wilkes Booth, the group also included George Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, David Herald, Edward Spangler, Michael O'Laughlin, and Samuel B. Arnold.
For several months before the assassination, the group met at the boarding house to discuss their plans on taking revenge on the Union. The original plans called for the kidnapping of President Lincoln, until the conspirators decided to aim higher. The group ultimately decided to murder President Lincoln, the Vice President Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State, William Seward. Booth was, of course, successful in his assassination of President Lincoln, which took place at Ford's Theater. Lewis Payne, attempting to murder the Secretary of State William Seward at Rodgers House, failed, as did George Atzerodt, who grew frightened and aborted his mission.
Three days after the assassination, Mary Surratt, a self-professed Southern sympathizer, was arrested and taken to the Old Capitol Prison (located where the Supreme Court stands today. Mrs. Surratt was jailed, tried, and ultimately hanged for her role in the crimes.
Ford's Theater is most known as the building where John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln. Before the theater was established, the site was home to the First Baptist Church. The building was bought and turned into a theater. In 1862, the structure burned to the ground. John T. Ford took the opportunity to build a larger theater, which opened in August 1863. Prior to the assassination, President Lincoln had seen several plays at the theater. Ironically, one of them featured John Wilkes Booth as the leading actor.
On the fateful evening of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln arrived at the theater to see the play, Our American Cousin, starring the popular actress, Laura Keane. Lincoln, a fan of Keane's, did not want to miss what was to be her last performance of the play. Accompanying Lincoln was his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone, and his fiancee, Clara Harris. At the start of the second act, John Wilkes Booth, a bitter, Southern actor, slipped past Lincoln's bodyguard and fired two shots at the back of Lincoln's head. Major Rathbone tried to stop Booth, but was slashed as the assassin leapt out of the Presidential Box toward the stage. Booth's boot spur got caught in the American flag draped in front of the box, sending the assassin tumbling onto the stage where he broke his leg. Legend then has it that he yelled out "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus Ever to Tyrants, the motto of Virginia), although some say he shouted "The South is avenged." After the shooting, President Lincoln was carried across the street to Petersen House. Lincoln died early in the morning on April 15, 1865.
Booth escaped from the theater, amid all the chaos, and led pursuers on a hunt through Maryland and Virginia. Eventually, Booth was flushed out of a burning barn and shot to death at the Barlett Farm near Bowling Green, Virginia. Four other conspirators, George Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, David Herald, and Mary Surratt, were imprisoned and eventually hanged in an outside yard before a crowd of onlookers. The other three conspirators, Edward Spangler, Michael O'Laughlin, and Samuel B. Arnold, were sentenced to hard labor along with Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who set Booth's broken leg. O'Laughlin died of yellow fever in prison. The other three were eventually pardoned by Andrew Johnson during the last days of his presidency, in the middle of his impeachment hearings.
Over the next century, Ford's Theater was used for a variety of purposes. In 1866, the building was purchased by the federal government and used as the Army Medical Museum. The building was later used as office space for War Department clerks processing Civil War pension records. On July 9, 1893, another tragedy took place in the building. The floor of the deteriorating building collapsed, killing 22 and wounding 108.
After a $27 million restoration, the theater was reopened on February 13, 1968. Photographs by Matthew Brady were used to restore the theater as close as possible to what it was the night Lincoln was assassinated. The National Park Service now operates the building as a historic site. The Lincoln Museum, situated in the basement of the theater, features memorabilia from the assassination, including the murder weapon and the boots worn by Lincoln.
More information on the theater can be found on the National Park Service's Ford's Theater National Historic Site Web Page.
The Petersen House, built in 1849 by Swedish emigrant William Petersen, is known as the house where President Lincoln was taken after being shot at Ford's Theater. On the evening of April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was taken across 10th street and placed on a small bed in a guest room. Throughout the night, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton questioned witnesses about the crime. The president never regained consciousness and died early the next morning.
In 1896 the federal government purchased the house. In 1932, with the aid of various women's groups, the house was reopened as a museum. Today it is operated by the National Park Service as "The House Where Lincoln Died." More information can be found on the National Park Service's Petersen House web page.