Whether you're interested in Lincoln the president or “Lincoln" the movie, Washington is a downright thrilling destination.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and one of the country's most admired, rising from humble roots in a frontier cabin to become a self-educated lawyer and brilliant politician. As president, he ended slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and preserved the nation despite the Civil War. The story of his assassination is one of the best-known chapters of American history.
Many museums are offering special exhibits for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. Other sites can be visited any time: the Lincoln Memorial, the cottage where he summered, Ford's Theatre, where he was shot, and the Petersen House, where he died.
LINCOLN MEMORIAL: This larger-than-life white marble statue of Lincoln, completed in 1922, sits inside a massive columned building. The design, according to the National Park Service, was inspired by the Parthenon, the ancient Greek temple that is considered the birthplace of democracy. About 6 million people visit the memorial each year. Even on a cold winter day, the steps are crowded with visitors from around the world taking pictures and speaking many languages. Located on the National Mall.
FORD'S THEATRE AND PETERSEN HOUSE: Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in 1865 while watching a play with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. He was brought to a house across the street, now a museum and historic site called the Petersen House. You can see the room where he died and where his war secretary, Edwin Stanton, was said to have uttered the famous words: “Now he belongs to the ages.''
A visit to Ford's and the Petersen House reveals fascinating details of the crime: The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, an actor as famous in his day as Justin Bieber or George Clooney, walked right up to the box where Lincoln was sitting and shot him in the head. He then leapt to the stage, ran out and fled by horse. Booth was hunted down and shot in a barn 12 days later. A plaque marks the site of a nearby boardinghouse where conspirators were said to have plotted the assassination; the building at 604 H St. (originally 541 H St.) is now a restaurant. The boardinghouse owner, Mary Surratt, was hanged.
Within 16 months of the assassination, Ford's Theatre closed and the federal government