Aug 4

The building known as Ford’s Theatre was constructed in 1833 as the First Baptist Church of Washington. In 1861, after the congregation relocated to a newly built structure, John T. Ford bought the former church and renovated it into a theater. He first called it Ford’s Athenaeum. It was destroyed by fire in 1862, and was rebuilt the following year. When the new Ford’s Theatre opened in August 1863, it had seating for 2,400 persons and was called a “magnificent new thespian temple”. Today Ford’s Theatre seats approximately 600 people. This image of courtesy of the Library of Congress. This view was taken facing northeast circa 1865.

Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Michael Kanazawich continues his series on John Wilkes Booth’s Last Day in Washington, D.C. Mike was born and raised in Oneonta, New York. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from Oneonta State University. He received his Master of Science degree in Environmental Geology from the University of Connecticut. Mike worked as a Geologist for eleven years before becoming a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide in 1995. Michael Kanazawich is the author of the book Remarkable Stories of the Lincoln Assassination.

To contact Mike Kanazawich, click here to reveal his email address.

In our first post, Michael Kanazawich introduced the series of John Wilkes Booth’s Last Day in Washington, D.C., and showed us the site of the National Hotel where John Wilkes Booth stayed while in Washington.

In today’s post, Mike Kanazawich tells how John Wilkes Booth found out that President Lincoln was attending Ford’s Theatre that evening, his desire to rent a fast horse, and a possible sighting of Booth at The Willard Hotel.

This map shows us the locations taken of videos for the John Wilkes Booth’s Last Day in Washington series. Videos #1 and #5 were at the site of Ford’s Theater. Videos #2 and #4 were taken on Pennsylvania Avenue on the south side of the site of the National Hotel (now the Newseum). Videos #3 and #6 were taken on the north side of the site of the National Hotel. Video #7 was taken in the vicinity of the Willard Hotel. This map was created facing north at approximately 8:30 PM on Wednesday, July 22, 2009.

Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Michael Kanazawich is the author of the book Remarkable Stories of the Lincoln Assassination. He is standing on the sidewalk outside of the front entrance to Ford’s Theater. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

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In Video #5 (Videos #1-#4 were shown in our first Booth post) Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Mike Kanazawich tells us that after breakfast at the National Hotel the morning of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth arrived at Ford’s Theater to pick up his mail. Booth will be informed that President Lincoln will visit the theater that night. This view was taken facing southeast to northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

After owner John Ford discovered that President Lincoln would be attending Ford’s Theatre that evening, he quickly had handbills printed up. He wanted the handbills distributed quickly in order to attract a large audience on what had been anticipated to be a not very well attended Good Friday evening performance. Click on the above picture to see the handbill in its entirety. This handbill is courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Licensed Battlefield Guide Mike Kanazawich is standing at the corner of 6th Street (top left to bottom right) and C Street (where the single gray/silver car is on the right). The stable of James W. Pumphrey was in the background on a site now occupied by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. After hearing that Lincoln would be attending Ford’s Theatre that evening, Booth arrived at Pumphrey’s Stable in order to rent a fast horse. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:00 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

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In Video #6 Licensed Battlefield Guide Mike Kanazawich relates how John Wilkes Booth returned to his residence at the National Hotel from Ford’s Theater after hearing that Lincoln will be there that night. Booth rented a fast horse from James Pumphreys Stable. Mike provides a detailed description of the horse. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

The Willard Hotel is the large building in the background, located at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The Treasury Department is in the building in the far left background. On the other side (far side) of the Treasury Department is the White House (not pictured in this view). This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

The Willard Hotel in the 1860s. The hotel’s site, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, has accommodated guests since 1816, but the Willard was formally founded by Henry Willard when he bought the property in 1850. Three primary structures on this site have been named the Willard Hotel. Famous guests at the Willard have included: P. T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gypsy Rose Lee, Gloria Swanson, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Lind, Charles Dickens, Ulysses S. Grant and Martin Luther King Jr. Many United States presidents have frequented the Willard, and every president since Franklin Pierce have either slept in or attended an event at the hotel at least once. This view was sketched facing northwest in the 1860s.

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In Video #7 Mike Kanazawich relates a story told by Julia Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant). Mrs. Grant claimed that John Wilkes Booth watched her eat lunch in the lobby of the Willard Hotel the afternoon of Friday April 14, 1865. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Mike Kanazawich is standing outside the southwest wall of the Willard Hotel. In the background are four plaques of which we will show you closer views from left to right. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

This plaque gives the dates of the three main structures that housed the Willard Hotel. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

The Peace Conference of 1861 was a meeting of more than 100 of the leading politicians of the antebellum United States held in Washington, D.C., in February 1861 in a last-ditch effort to avert what became the Civil War. The Peace Conference was the final effort by the individual states to resolve the crisis. With seven states in the lower South already committed to secession, the emphasis for peacefully preserving the Union focused on the eight slaveholding states representing the Upper and Border South, with the states of Virginia and Kentucky playing key roles.This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

This plaque lists some of the famous guests at the Willard. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Julia Ward Howe wrote the song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1861 while a guest at the Willard. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 10:15 AM on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Mike Kanazawich is the author of the book Remarkable Stories of the Lincoln Assassination. It is available from Colecraft Industries. This image was scanned facing south at approximately 5:15 PM on Tuesday, July 21, 2009.

To see other posts by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, click here.


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