Baptist Alley Pictures

After shooting President Lincoln in his box at Ford’s Theatre, John Wilkes Booth leapt onto the stage, brandished his knife red with Major Rathbone’s blood, and made his way swiftly backstage. From there he exited the building from a small stage door. Outside he found Peanut John, a young boy who sold peanuts at the theatre and did odd jobs like watch the stage door during performances, holding the reins of his horse. Upon his arrival at the back theatre entrance that night, Booth had called for his friend Edman Spangler to hold the reins of his restless horse. Spangler, busy with the job of shifting the scenery for the play outsourced the job to Peanuts. Upon his explosion from the theatre, Booth shouted for his horse, struck Peanuts as he mounted, and galloped away down the alley. He quickly turned left and exited out onto F street.

This alley was called Baptist Alley due to the theatre having previously been the home of the First Baptist Church of D.C. The originally rented their building to John T. Ford before selling it to him outright. The building caught fire and burned on December 30th, 1862 and Ford rebuilt. The alley was a common place to John Wilkes Booth, who had Edman Spangler construct him a makeshift stables in the alley. When his body was released to his family n the waning hours of Andrew Johnson’s presidency, Booth made a return trip to his former stables in Baptist Alley as his remains were placed there to hide them from the public.

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10 thoughts on “Baptist Alley Pictures

  1. Pingback: New Gallery – Baptist Alley « BoothieBarn

  2. Richard Sloan

    Most of your pictures show the alley directly behind the theatre rear wall. The others show the “L” turn to the street. Which one is “Baptist Alley”? Or are both of them considered to be the alley. I Have always been unsure of this. (Incidentally, the bottom right drawing, from Olzweski’s Historic Structures report, shows a staircase behind the adjacent building, which housed the box office and the Ford brothers’ offices.

    I’d like to bring up another subject, if I may. I am sorry I don’t recall if you’ve ever written about this, Dave.) Many students of the case believe that this was the second of the three phases of Laura Keene’s route from the stage to the Presidential box after the assassination, in order to avoid most (not all) of the panic-stricken crowd. Actor Robert Gourlay was familiar with the theatre; Laura wasn’t. He took her to the box via this route. (Maybe his name was Thomas; I forget as I write this!) Anyway, phase one of this trip to the box was to cross the stage to a corridor located behind the box, seperating the theatre from this adjoining building. Phase two was to go outside through the door at the end of the corridor (seen in the Historic Structures picture). And phase three was to go inside the adjoining building to the second floor and then enter the theatre through doors on the same level as the Presidential box. Art Loux and I first traversed this route many years ago to see if it was possible — it was. (The staircase is now INSIDE the restored building, rather than being OUTSIDE.) When I gave a talk at Ford’s Theatre about actress Jeannie Gourlay, I showed the audience how this could have been quickly accomplished. I presented a Gourlay descendant to the audience. On my cue, she left the stage by going behind the box. A few moments later she re-appeared at the entrance to the box.

    • When I was putting the gallery together, Richard, I too was wondering if the term Baptist Alley only applied to one of these streets. That probably was the case with either the alley directly behind Ford’s, parallel to 10th St., or the alleyway that runs perpendicular into Ford’s, parallel to F street, being the true “Baptist Alley”. It is doubtful that the alley that exits out onto F that Booth exited from would have been named Baptist Alley. Nowadays though, we seem to call all of those alleys back there Baptist Alley.

  3. J. Beckert

    This was a long discussion a while ago, Richard and that was the conclusion. However, was there another door besides the one behind the dress circle that led into the second floor of the southern addition? I think the consensus was it was the only door.

  4. Richard Petersen

    thanks for the post. When I was in DC in 2003 went to Ford’s theater and the theater was closed. Walked to Baptist Alley and talked with the Park District rangers. One of the Rangers let me enter the back door that Booth exited. I got to see the theater from a different perspective. The Ranger said ” you got to see a part of Ford’s theater that 99% of the visitors do not. To this day it was exciting to think I was in the door way that Booth escaped. Thanks again for the pictures.

  5. Pingback: New Galleries – The Assassination « BoothieBarn

  6. Richard Sloan

    I don’t think there was another door or set of doors behind the Dress Circle that led to the adj. bldg. There certainly isn;t one today. I see no reason why there would have been the need for another one. I think the Interior Dept. got it right when they only reconstructed one set of doors there.
    SO EXACTLY WHERE WAS BOOTH’S STABLE, DAVE (AND EVERYONE ELSE)? As you look at the rear wall of the theatre, wasn’t it on the right?. DO we have any photos of it? I have a wire service photo allegedly of the structure that was the stable for the horse, and it appears to be on the right as you look at the theatre’s rear wall.Not sure if that’s accurate, tho.

  7. Pingback: John Wilkes Booth’s Movements at Ford’s Theatre | BoothieBarn

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