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The Government Purchases Ford's Theatre

On the night of April 14, 1865, Secretary of War Stanton ordered guards to be posted at the theatre, and all future dramatic productions were canceled. In June, the building was restored to John T. Ford who advertised that the theatre would be reopened. This announcement aroused public indignation, and the War Department ordered the building closed, Mr. Ford threatened legal proceedings, whereupon the Government rented the building for $1,500 a month until June 1, 1866, with the privilege of purchasing it for $100,000. The necessary funds were provided by Congress in the Deficiency Appropriation Acts of July 7, 1865, and April 7, 1866.

Soon after renting the property, the Government began remodeling the theatre into an office and storage building. On August 17, 1865, a contract was awarded for altering the interior of the building. The ornate woodwork of the stage and balconies was removed and the building was divided into three floors. This work was completed on November 27, 1865. The building was occupied by the Record and Pension Bureau of the War Department in April 1866. The Army Medical Museum was located on the third floor from 1867 to 1887.

On the morning of June 9, 1893, a second tragedy occurred in the old theatre building. Excavation in the basement for the installation of an electric plant weakened the foundations of the structure and caused the three floors to collapse. Employees of the Record and Pension Bureau were at work when the crash occurred. Clerks, desks, and heavy file cases were catapulted into the basement. Twenty-two persons were killed and 68 injured in the catastrophe. The interior of the building was restored the following year.

On July 1, 1928, the building was transferred from the War Department to the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital and utilized for storage purposes. That office was absorbed by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, by Executive order of June 10, 1933.


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