In 1826, construction of the original Federal Style Courthouse began on land donated for use as a public square by Auguste Chouteau and J.B.C. Lucas. Construction on the existing Greek Revival style Courthouse began in 1839 and continued through several transitions until 1862.
The courthouse was the scene of many rallies, speeches and several important trials, including the suit by Dred and Harriot Scott for freedom from slavery and Suffragist Virginia Louisa Minor for the right to vote.
A special exhibit, Dred Scott, Slavery and The Struggle to Be Free, is currently on display in the Rotunda of the Historic Old Courthouse. The exhibit describes several aspects of African-American society and culture, from slavery to free black business owners to the "colored aristocracy" of rich landowners.
In 1940, the city of St. Louis deeded the Old Courthouse to the Federal Government. Today, this nineteenth-century Historic Old Courthouse features restored courtrooms, a decorated dome, Dioramas, the "Gateway To The West" film and galleries depicting the history of St. Louis.
Most of the first floor of the Old Courthouse is accessible to wheelchairs, but the upper floors of the Old Courthouse are reachable only by climbing stairs. On the first floor, it is necessary to climb two stairs to enter the theater or the Museum Shop. Steps above the first floor: Between first and second floor 33 steps; Between second and third floor 22 steps; Between third floor and the balcony 22 steps; The floor level changes in the upper floors, and single steps separate these different levels. A wheelchair lift provides access to the Old Courthouse from Broadway, on the west side of the building. The exhibits and rest rooms on the first floor of the Old Courthouse are fully accessible. Assistive listening devices are available for the theater.
The Old Courthouse, part of the Gateway Arch National Park, is located at 11 North Fourth Street. It is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-655-1700. (Historical Old Courthouse is closed until further notice.)
Construction on the existing Greek Revival style Old Courthouse began in 1839 and continued through several transitions until 1862.