In contrast with the straight skyscrapers that surround it, this classical building composes, with the arch in the background the best sight of town (all the photographers around it will agree with me!).
The garden and fountain are also very well integrated in the whole.
This courthouse is from the days when St. Louis was its own county, and still is. The Courthouse has been used until about 30 years ago. The whole inside of the Courthouse features a wonderful museum of the times back when it was established and the times of St. Louis. There are many rooms that hold treasures inside for the history besides the sheer beauty of the inside. Dred Scott case prevails as a main theme in that it was here the slave family tried to get free through the Courts. They lost.
The courthouse grounds were donated by the Chouteau family in 1826 and by 1862 the Courthouse was complete. In 1940 the City donated it to the Federal Parks
The Old Courthouse is part of the National Park Service's Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and is significant for it's part in the Dred Scott Decision, which hastened the advent of the Civil War, and for it's role in the Women's Suffrage movement, when Virginia Minor sued the state of Missouri for the right to vote.
The orignal courthouse was begun in 1816, and although several remodelings, expansions, and restorations have occurred since then, the building remains a beautiful example of 19th century architecture.
Rooms inside the courthouse have been renovated to house various displays of St. Louis history, the Dred Scott Decision and slavery, a bookstore, a media room, and restored courtrooms which give insight into the workings of the 19th century judicial system. The beautiful murals on the rotunda were painted by Carl Wimer in 1861; A redecoration of Wimar's work occurred in 1880 by Ettore Miragoli with his own paintings. In 1888, August Becker restored the original Wimar paintings.
If you are a NPS Passport holder - the stamping station is in the bookstore.
The Old Courthouse is one of the most interesting buildings in St. Louis - a historic structure that served as a significant home for federal, state, and county courts. The most famous court case heard here was in the 1850s - the Dred Scott Case, which played an important role in dividing the United States and paving the way for the Civil War. The Courthouse is now an integral part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and it offers interesting historic displays and mementos from that crucial era of history.
The Courthouse is also an interesting and beautiful example of 19th century civic architecture. Its most famous feature is the striking and soaring dome, which was designed by St. Louis engineer William Rumbold, who modeled his creation after the Vatican in Rome. Completed in 1864, the dome was for many years the tallest structure in St. Louis (and Missouri, for that matter.)
The Old Courthouse is open to visitors free of charge. You can spend as long as you want viewing and reading the information regarding Dred Scott and about the pivotal trials that occurred here. The rooms have been restored in the Court House. It's a beautiful building and truly worthy of a visit to learn more of 19th Century judicial system. This is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
Timing is everything when visiting the Old Courthouse - make sure you are there for one of the tours to discover everything you can; especially if you are a history buff. Free tours are given by park rangers who tell you about the courthouse's history architecturally and the famous trials that its walls have witnessed. We could discover so much if the walls of this courthouse could talk. The Dred Scott trial took place in this courthouse - a truly landmark case in which a slave sued his owner for his freedom after taking him into a free state for a prolonged period of time. The tour guides are knowledgeable and include information about what happened after the trial. There are courtrooms preserved as they must have been during the Dred Scott case and the dome and rotunda of the courthouse are quite ornate. This building is also part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial since the pioneers who wanted to "Go West" met here to make their plans. Also, the building houses standing and special exhibits that highlight St. Louis's history. An added bonus is that admission is free.
FREE admission daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. I was assured that this museum is worth it (or - since it is free, I guess I mean that it is worth visiting). Unfortunately I didn't. It has courtrooms, information on the Dred Scott case, and film charting the history of the city of St. Louis. I was only able to observe from the outside.
The original classic revival style dome was replaced with a new copper clad dome of wrought and cast iron in an Italian Renaissance style a la the dome of St. Peter's in Rome. In 1861, the Federal government was constructing a similarly styled dome for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Naysayers assumed the dome in St. Louis would be too heavy to be supported. The architect of the dome, William Rumbold, constructed a test model dome to proved it was sound.
The Old Courthouse was abandoned by the City of St. Louis in 1930 for the new larger courthouse a few blocks to the west. Descendants of the Chouteau and Lucas families filed a lawsuit with the Missouri Supreme Court based upon the original agreement between their ancestors and St. Louis County claiming that the Old Courthouse and should revert back to them because it was no longer used for its original purpose. The court ruled against the families (surprise).
According to the NPS website:
The National Park Service began preservation of the Old Courthouse following its incorporation into Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. A new roof was installed in 1941 and the interior restoration began the same year. Offices were established in the structure by 1943 and museum exhibits displayed. ... The roof was rehabilitated, the murals restored and a new museum exhibit planned in 1979. The exterior of the Old Courthouse was renovated in 1985. The four St. Louis history galleries were completed in 1986. The National Park Service continues to preserve and maintain the Old Courthouse, a fine example of nineteenth-century architecture.
The Old Courthouse is one of the oldest buildings still standing in St. Louis and is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Inside the Old Courthouse, you'll find rooms dedicated to the brief history of St. Louis, restored courtrooms, as well as the history of a the famous trials of Dred Scott.
It's open 7 days a week from 8am-4:30pm (except holidays) and it's FREE!!
See the courthouse where the monumental decision of the Dred Scott case was made. The courthouse is a beautiful, old structure. Wander around and see the different rooms. One had a diaroma of the area. You really get the feel of history in this building!
The Old Courthouse with Luther Ely Smith Park in front & Kiener Plaza to the rear. The original courthouse on the spot was a small brick structure completed in 1828...when the new courthouse was built, it incorporated the original as one of the wings. In later years, the 1828 courthouse was completely replaced, and by 1862, the Old Courthouse was declared complete. The iron dome was designed after St. Peter's in Rome, and at 190 feet, it was for many years the tallest structure in the city.
In 1940 the federal government took ownership of the Old Courthouse and made it part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park.
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