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 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 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 courthouse features restored courtrooms, a decorated dome, Dioramas, the “Gateway To The West” film and galleries depicting the history of St. Louis.
The Old Courthouse, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.
The park features the Gateway Arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen who won the design competition in 1947. The stainless steel structure rises 630 feet high from a 60-foot foundation and spans 630 feet at ground level. Its classic weighted catenary curve sways 1/2″ – 1″ in 20 mph wind. Construction on the nation’s tallest memorial began in 1961 with the “topping out” in 1965 and dedication in 1966.
At night, horse drawn carriages and live music add to the downtown atmosphere. Nearby, sightseeing excursions offer additional choices for entertainment.
Hours at Old Courthouse:
During the winter, the Old Courthouse is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Arch is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the summer (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day), Old Courthouse is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Accessibility at Old Courthouse:
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.
If you are a U.S. citizen and have a permanent disability, you may obtain a free Access Pass at the Gateway Arch Information Desk or at the Old Courthouse Museum Shop. The passport allows free admission to federal areas which charge an entrance fees and provides reductions for other types of user fees.
The Old Courthouse is located at 11 North Fourth Street, just west of the Gateway Arch. The building is approximately two blocks north of Busch Stadium, home to St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Approximately five blocks to the north are the America’s Center and Dome Stadium, home of the St. Louis Rams football. The Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues, is located just 10 blocks west of the Old Courthouse.