The Old Courthouse

My Saturday excursions took me to the old Saint Louis courthouse. Built in 1828, this courthouse was the tallest building in Missouri until 1894. The old courthouse was used primarily by municipal and state courts, but also occasionally rented space for the Federal court system. This court’s most infamous case was the Dred Scott decision of 1846. In this case Scott and his wife were denied their freedom from slavery, even though they lived in a free state. When the city built the new municipal courts building this building was left vacant for a decade. Eventually, FDR founded the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, now known as the Arch. The old courthouse was named a national monument and incorporated into this larger memorial.

I’ve lived in Saint Louis for over 34 years, but this was only the second time that I ventured inside. The first time was years ago, when the boys were little and that was probably little more than a bathroom stop at that. On this visit I took the time to appreciate this almost 200 year-old building. Our house is over 75 years-old and is still almost a fulltime maintenance job. The old courthouse being far older undergoes almost continual renovations. This courthouse was not all built at once. The two wings were both added and in many respects are still almost separate buildings. They each have their own separate basements. In 1861 a cupola was replaced with the current cast iron dome. The dome is modeled after the one in Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was subsequently copied on to the Missouri State Hospital on Arsenal. In order to photograph the interior of the dome, I used my new GoPro camera and even so had to place it on the floor in the center of the rotunda to capture the entire field of view. I especially like the picture of the Arch framed by two of the old courthouse’s column.

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