By Lily Murphy
This April marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of American president Abraham Lincoln. On April 14th 1865, the 56 year old president of the United States had been watching a play at Ford’s theatre with his wife when an assassin shot him in the head. The president was taken from the theatre to a house across the road where he lay until his death came at 7:22am the next morning.
17 years previously, a German tailor by the name of William Petersen built the three story townhouse where the president would die. Today it is known as ‘The Petersen House’ and was the home of the German tailor, his wife and a number of lodgers. When the dying president was carried into the Petersen’s house at 516 10th street on that April night in 1865, their home would from then on never be the same.
Those carrying President Lincoln were unsure where to go when they brought him out from Fords theatre. The street was starting to get congested with curious onlookers and one such curious onlooker was 25 year old Henry Safford who was renting a room on the second floor of William Petersen’s house.
Safford noticed the confusion of those carrying the injured president and he called on them to bring him into the Petersen’s house.
The severely wounded president was carried across the road from the theatre and up the steps of the red brick house where Safford directed them to a small back bedroom on the ground floor.
The bedroom where President Lincoln was brought to was the lodgings of William Clark, who was a union solider and not there on the night. The lanky body of the president was placed diagonally on Clarks small bed and there is an unconfirmed story that John Wilkes Booth who had shot the president, had indeed been in the same room and rested on the same bed only months before.
The story goes that an actor friend of his was renting the room at the time and Booth had visited him one day to take a rest.
Up to 90 people came and went throughout the long night while Mr and Mrs Petersen, along with their lodgers, moved themselves to the basement of the house where they spent the night.