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Use the slider above to view the Old Courthouse in 1911 and 2014.
Missouri became a state in the year 1821. The population in the city of St. Louis grew profoundly over the next several decades. As the needs of the city continued to change, the construction of the Old Courthouse took place over many years and in several phases. Construction began in 1839 and the building was finally declared complete in 1864 with the addition of a newly re-designed dome. The dome was an architectural triumph at the time. Built in the same style as the dome of the U. S. Capitol, this pioneer design was unique, and these two domes were among the first of their type in the world.
In addition to the building's architectural significance, the Old Courthouse is of historic importance for its pivotal role in the Dred Scott case. The building was the site of the first two trials in 1847 and 1850.
Buildings at the intersection of Chestnut Street and First Street before they were razed to provide land for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Photo source: Library of Congress.
Today, the Old Courthouse is dwarfed by surrounding buildings. It is hard to believe that at one time, this was the tallest structure in St. Louis. It's height was surpassed in 1896 when Union Station was built. The building no longer has functioning courtrooms and instead is operated by the National Parks Service with historical exhibits and events. Of the original twelve courtrooms, only two remain. These two rooms were restored to what they looked like 1910, and are on display in the building as a historic example of what courtrooms looked like in that time period.