Monday, June 10, 2013

Jun 10 (1893) Twenty-Two Die in Ford Theater Collapse; "A blunder worse than a crime"

Washington, D.C. Ford's Theater with guards posted at entrance and mourning draped from windows

On this day in 1893, the New York Tribune reports that twenty-two lives were lost and dozens injured when the Ford Theater collapsed in Washington, D.C.  The building had been converted into a three-story office building in 1865, after Lincoln was assassinated. Causes of the collapse were later determined to be negligence by the building contractor, who was excavating under pillars without sufficient support. The Ford Theater was then closed as an office structure.

In 1931, the building was transferred to the National Park Service, and reopened on this day, June 10, 1933 as the "Lincoln Museum."

Citizens were outraged by the building's collapse in 1893. Especially since it was known to be defective. The symbolism of the tragedy was not lost.

"Another tragedy--less national in character than the first but involving many more lives and causing much more human suffering--has stained the walls of the old Ford Theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by J. Wilkes Booth in 1865...

The house where Lincoln died, on the other side of the street where Lincoln was shot, which is still sentimentally kept in tact as it was that fatal night, looked down to-day upon a scene of agony, excitement and grief which even the great crime of 1865 cannot parallel.

And the horrors of the scene were by no means lessened by the knowledge that a blunder, surely in this case 'worse than a crime' had caused the deaths."

Image is from the Library of Congress with the title: Washington, D.C. Ford's Theater with guards posted at entrance and crepe draped from windows, to signify mourning.

Further Reading

History of the Ford Theater

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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.