The collapse of Ford’s Theatre in 1893 was a major news story. Even before the official investigation began, letters to the editors of various D.C. newspapers laid the blame of the collapse on the feet of a plethora of people. In the early days, the greatest scapegoat was Congress and the government for allowing workers to remain housed in knowingly dangerous or condemned buildings. Many called for inspections of all federal buildings in Washington to prevent the tragedy from happening elsewhere. Perhaps it was a latent sense of pride in his building, or a desire to distance his reputation from yet another tragedy, that led 64 year-old John T. Ford to pen this letter to the Evening Star:
John Ford would end of being very much correct in his claims. It was not any flaw in the building that led to its collapse, but rather the incompetence of the workers excavating the basement who did not adequately support the foundation during their dig. As Tudor Hall stands today, architect James Gifford had built a sturdy building with Ford’s Theatre that could have lasted for much longer, had it not been for human error and negligence.
Evening Star – June 12, 1893