Day 18: October 16, 2015--Ford's Theater and Mount Vernon

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A free ticket!

Yesterday, we visited Mr. Jefferson (#3). Today we saw where Mr. Washington (#1) lived, and where Mr. Lincoln (#16) died. It's been a Presidential couple of days. Unlike yesterday's trek, we didn't have to do anything extraordinary to get to Washington's house; he lives on the Metro D.C. subway (more or less).

Ford's Theater and the Petersen House

First we headed into town (by bus) to figure out what we needed to do to get tickets to the "show stopper" at Ford's Theater.

In the Ford's Theater Museum
It was easier than expected. All we had to do is go in, get our free tickets, and stand in a line that, although it looked interminable, was a piece of cake.

As it happened, the line led us into a truly interesting museum exhibit downstairs from the Theater. I swear I could have spent longer taking it all in, but then it was time to go.

The presentation was done as though a police detective were telling the story (as I recall), including his interviewing a little kid who supposedly saw something outside the theater. I was moved by the whole thing.

Surprisingly, the theater still gives performances of live plays; as I write in October of 2017, Death of a Salesman is running, and A Christmas Carol is up next.

However, as Wikipedia wisely notes, "The presidential box is never occupied."

Then we went across the street to the Petersen House, in the back bedroom of which Lincoln died the morning after he was shot. Though the bed is a replica (the original is in a museum in Chicago, having been bought by a collector back in 1877), this is the precise spot on the globe where Lincoln breathed his last.

For a little bit of the emotion the nation must have felt, consider this: He died on Good Friday; the Easter sermons in many (northern) churches were about his "martyrdom."

Further, I recommend two poems by Walt Whitman: the short "O Captain! my Captain!" familiar to some from the film Dead Poets Society; and, requiring a bit more commitment, "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd," which begins,
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd -- and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
"Him I love," of course, is Lincoln, as is the fallen "Captain":
But O heart! heart! heart!
  O the bleeding drops of red,
    Where on the deck my Captain lies,
      Fallen cold and dead.
Whitman, as he was wont to do, captured the spirit of the moment astonishingly.

Ford's Theater has a pretty good account of the whole tragedy, if you need a little refresher.

Mount Vernon, Virginia

Somewhat sobered, we got something to eat and then got on the train near Ford's and headed for Mount Vernon. How to do it: Take the Yellow Line out of town to Huntington Station (the end of the line), then #101 "Fairfax Connector" bus which runs right by the gate of Mt. Vernon. Bus details here (PDF). The ride is more or less 8-9 miles.

The happy Washingtons at home (well, in the Visitor Center) (Photo by Lila)

Another Great House experience, it was dampened only by the fact that there were so many people there that the management was skimping on the tours: instead of walking through with a guide, we would walk into a room joining a guide in the middle of his/her shpiel, then move to another room where another guide was speaking, and so on. It made for a disjointed, half-assed sort of experience. I cannot tell a lie: I was disappointed.

See the Gallery for some of what we did experience (naturally, no pictures from inside the house).

Somewhere on the grounds we ate the sandwiches we had brought along, giving us the strength to stick around for quite a while. Danged if we didn't miss an important shot, though; see the Gallery for the story.

Having toured the house and seen a bit of the farm, we circled back around to see one last sight--the Last Site.

As we did with Mr. Jefferson, we walked down to see Mr. Washington's grave. With a slightly different eye to posterity--Mr. Jefferson's grave was simplicity itself--Mr. Washington left instructions to have a grander mausoleum built (though still pretty humble); the "New Tomb" was occupied in 1831, 32 years after his death.

Reversing our steps, through the Visitor Center, back on the bus, to the train, to the city, where we had Indian food around the corner from "home" ("Flavors of India"--yum!) and retired for the night.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

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