St. Louis Old Courthouse history
St. Louis Old Courthouse has an interesting story. However, the courthouse of today is not the first courthouse on this site. The land was donated in early 19th century by two prominent St. Louis figures with the request that the land would be “used forever as the site on which the courthouse of the County of St. Louis should be erected”.
Their request was fulfilled and the first courthouse stood completed in 1828. This first courthouse was much smaller than the courthouse of today. During this period, Missouri became a state of their own and its population tripled in a 10-year period. It didn’t take too long before a new larger courthouse was constructed to represent this higher status.
The courthouse of today
In 1839, ground was broken for the new courthouse with a total of four wings, including an east wing that comprised the original courthouse and a three story copula dome in the middle. This new courthouse is to a large extent what stands on the site today. The building, with its Pantheon-like entrance, was heavily inspired by ancient Greek architecture.
The new dome
However, some modifications were made in the mid 19th century. The east wing, which included the old courthouse, was torn down and replaced. A new dome was also constructed, using an iron structure and casing it with a thing copper layer. It was based on the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and this new dome is the one that still crowns the courthouse of today.
Throughout the years, the St. Louis Old Courthouse has been the place for several notable cases. The two most famous is ones is the Dred Scott case and the Virginia Minor case. Dred Scott was a slave sued the state of Missouri for his freedom, based on that he had lived in Free states before.
After many appeals, the case was decided upon by the Supreme Court. The decision stated that slaves were property, and as such, had no right to sue. Many say that the Dred Scott case hastened the start of the Civil War. The other case, involving the women activist Virginia Minor, was a case where she unsuccessfully argued that the fourteenth amendment gave the women right to vote.
The memorial area
The building seized to function as a courthouse and was abandoned in the 1930ies. When later nearly 40 blocks surrounding the courthouse was raised and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was founded, the courthouse became once again a centerpiece in the area and a symbol for the city of St. Louis.
The memorial area was founded in honor of the US President Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana Purchase was a deal Jefferson made between the United States and France, were France sold much of today’s central US to the newly formed country, which effectively more than doubled the size of the United States.
Why visit St. Louis Old Courthouse ?
The beautiful St. Louis Old Courthouse, officially known as the Old St. Louis County Courthouse, is an inspiring building. The courthouse used to be a combination of a federal and a state courthouse. It is one of the centerpieces in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, together with the mighty Gateway Arch.
Today, the Old Courthouse is beautifully located between the Gateway Arch and the Kiener Plaza. The courthouse stands out as a white pearl in the heart of downtown St. Louis which truly creates a unique cityscape.
The courthouse is considered a cultural treasure and many say it almost feels surreal to see the old 19th century building in its setting, surrounded by modern buildings and the magnificent Gateway Arch behind it.
It is also possible to tour the inside of the historic courthouse. Inside, visitors can enjoy interesting exhibits, visit its restored courtrooms and learn about the 19th century US judicial system.
St. Louis Old Courthouse location
St Louis Old Courthouse is located in central United States, in St Louis, Missouri. The courthouse lies beautifully located close to the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. For the exact location of St Louis Old Courthouse, check out the location map to the right!