Seemingly a normal 19th century red brick rowhouse, the Petersen House holds a darker, more unfortunate history. On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died in a first-floor room of the Petersen House after he was shot at Ford’s Theatre.
American history teaches us that after the Civil War had ended, President Lincoln enjoyed a quiet night at the theater with his wife and guests when he was fatally wounded by John Wilkes Booth. Because of the severity of his injuries, doctors decided that the president would soon die and though he couldn’t survive a journey to the White House, they didn’t want him to perish in public at a theater. As a solution, they carried his body across the street to the boarding house owned by German tailor, William Petersen. The president passed only three hours later and a photo, now hanging in the house, was taken after the body had been removed. In a stroke of irony, John Wilkes Booth rented the very same room in which Lincoln died only a month previous.
After Petersen’s death, the house served as a museum devoted to President Lincoln and was later restored to its 1865-era style and furnishings to appear as it would have at the time of the assassination. Make sure to check out the Center for Education and Leadership next door which features a historic gallery devoted to President Lincoln, his legacy, and the after-effects of the assassination. This beautiful and historic landmark is open to visitors and tours through the Ford’s Theatre Experience tour and other walking tour options.