Funds raised from the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Campaign — marking the 200 anniversary of the birth of the nation's 16th president — will be used to transform the current facilities into a "campus" along Tenth Street NW in downtown Washington, DC, the not-for-profit organization announced.
The campus will feature a renovated theatre with a new lobby, a re-imagined museum, the Petersen House (where President Lincoln died) and a new Center for Education and Leadership focused on the life and legacy of President Lincoln.
"The campaign and the new facilities it will fund will enable Ford's Theatre Society to pursue its mission to celebrate the legacy of President Lincoln and explore the American experience through theatre and education," said Rex Tillerson, CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation and campaign chairman, during a capital campaign kick-off event Oct. 26.
In recent years, Ford's has produced popular resident stagings of the musicals Meet John Doe, Shenandoah, 1776 and more.
Tillerson was joined by Washington, DC, Mayor Adrian Fenty and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. "As we approach the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth in 2009, this campaign will enlist people here and around the world to live and celebrate his legacy of leadership, learning, education and love of the performing arts," stated Tillerson.
Ford's Theatre is a National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service and draws nearly one million visitors per year.
"Here at Ford's Theatre, the National Park Service and the Ford's Theatre Society have collaborated successfully to bring the story of Abraham Lincoln to life," stated Secretary Kempthorne. "The expansion and renovation of the complex will enhance the visitor experience and allow more people to better understand the man and his times."
According to the announcement, "The re-imagined museum and new Center for Education and Leadership will enhance the theatre's unique historical perspective by expanding educational opportunities available to visitors. The new museum will feature interactive self-guided exhibits that portray a social and political picture of Washington, DC and the United States in the 1860s. The new building will also include classroom and work spaces, designed specifically for use by visiting students and families, as well as support facilities."
The new Ford's Theatre campus will help anchor a revitalized "entertainment district" in Penn Quarter, Mayor Fenty said.
The theatre and museum, which closed on Aug. 26, will re-open in February 2009, in time for the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. The renovations "will enhance the museum exhibit space and make the theatre more audience-friendly and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Renovations will include upgraded seating, improved heating and air conditioning systems, renovated restrooms, enhanced accessibility with elevators to the various levels, a spacious new lobby, a new conference room for special events and updated stage capabilities for the cast and crew."
The Center for Education and Leadership will open shortly after the museum; "permanent installations will bring to life the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's assassination and illustrate the lasting effects of his presidency on the Unites States. Several rotating exhibits will ensure that visitors are met with fresh experiences each time they return to the Ford's Theatre campus."
Progress of the renovation can be followed by visiting the new, more interactive, Ford's Theatre web site: www.fords.org.
The web site will also allow visitors to take a "virtual tour" of the new facility and access information about Ford's Theatre Society's educational and theatrical extension programs while the theatre is closed.
The web site also has an on-line contribution capability that will allow individuals to become a part of history by generously supporting the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Campaign.
The Ford's Theatre renovation and expansion project has been made possible primarily through donations from private sources — individuals, foundations and corporations — as well as an $8.3 million grant from the federal government.
Ford's Theatre Society is a not-for-profit corporation created to produce live entertainment on Ford's historic stage and offer educational opportunities for the general public. In 2006, the theatre and neighboring Petersen House welcomed nearly one million visitors. It is the mission of the Ford's Theatre Society to celebrate the legacy of President Lincoln and explore the American experience through theatre and education. For more information, visit www.fords.org.