Old Courthouse Saint Louis Reviews
Old Courthouse - Jefferson Westward Expansion Memorial Aug 14, 2012
On a recent trip to St. Louis, I planned a day around the Arch. I went to the top, wandered through the museum, saw one of the films, and took a riverboat cruise. What I hadn’t originally planned was a trip to the Old Courthouse. It was a last minute addition, and one I am very happy I made.
Located 2 blocks away from the Arch, the Old Courthouse is also part of the National Park Service’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It might have been the timing of my visit – end of the day during the week, but the Old Courthouse was a welcome calm after the hustle and bustle of the Arch. I was able to wander the exhibits and halls without worrying that I was slowing down a group behind me or waiting for someone else to move so I could see.
In 1847 and again in 1850, the Old Courthouse was where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case were held (http://www.nps.gov/jeff/planyourvisit/dredscott.htm). As the location of such a pivotal case in U.S. history, the Old Courthouse features a very informative exhibit and video on the trial. You can also view a partial recreation of a courtroom of that time period. (Due to structural changes to the building, the actual courtroom no longer exists.) This courthouse was also the location of the Virginia Minor case, in which Virginia Minor sued for the right to vote in 1870 (http://www.nps.gov/jeff/historyculture/the-virginia-minor-case.htm.
My favorite exhibit in the Old Courthouse covered the history of St. Louis from 1764 to present day. Divided into different rooms, this exhibit covers:
• The Early Years (1764-1850): The establishment & French culture of St. Louis
• Becoming a City (1850-1900): St. Louis’ growth as a city & center of commerce and manufacturing.
• Entering the 20th Century (1900-1930): The city’s rise to national prominence & contributions to early 20th century culture & technology
• St. Louis Revisited (1930-Present)
For you architecture buffs, the original courthouse was constructed in the Federal style and completed in 1828. Due to the rapid expansion of St. Louis, the city outgrew the courthouse in 10 years, so a second courthouse was designed by Henry Singleton. This second courthouse incorporated the original courthouse as the east wing of the new building. Not too long after the second courthouse was completed, the original brick courthouse was demolished and replaced with a new east wing. The west wing was then remodeled because of unsound construction of the second floor. Due to the extensive remodeling, the original dome, a classic revival style, was replaced with a new dome in an Italian Renaissance style. Additional restoration occurred in 1880, 1888, 1905, 1921, 1941, 1955, 1979, 1985, and 1986. While in many cases, this much restoration might have resulted in a hot mess of styles, whoever worked on the Old Courthouse knew what they were doing as it the remains a beautiful example of nineteenth-century architecture.
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