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Old Courthouse

  • Also Known As: Old Cathedral

  • Address: 209 Walnut St
  • Travel Genus: Sight
  • Sight Category: Historic District

The majestic Old Courthouse has remained over the past 150 years as one of St Louis' most prominent architectural landmarks. Plan your visit to see all the permanent exhibits and special events! The Old Courthouse was the site of the first two trials of the pivotal Dred Scott case in 1847 and 1850. It was also where Virginia Minor's case for a woman's right to vote came to trial in the 1870s. You may tour this historic structure, and visit the restored courtrooms to learn more about our 19th century judicial system.

St Louis' Old Courthouse is listed in the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network To Freedom. The Network to Freedom recognizes sites, programs and facilities with verifiable associations to the Underground Railroad. The phenomenon popularly known as the Underground Railroad has been broadly defined by the National Park Service as the "historic resistance to enslavement through escape and flight." The Old Courthouse is linked with the story of the Underground Railroad, and with that of slavery, as a property associated with legal challenges to slavery. It was a public forum as well as a courthouse. Slaves were auctioned from its steps in estate settlements, while one man's suit for freedom helped plunge the country into Civil War. The Old Courthouse was the site of hundreds of suits for freedom, but one gained notoriety. In 1847, Dred Scott, with his wife Harriet, sued for, and were granted, their freedom. After many appeals, the case was decided upon by the Supreme Court. The decision stated that slaves were property, and as such, had no right to sue. The Dred Scott Decision hastened the start of the Civil War. - NPS

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Old Courthouse


Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Eero Saarinen Architect
1847/00/00 Dread Scott Plaintiff First Dread Scott Trial Scott v Emerson
1850/00/00 Dread Scott Plaintiff Second Dread Scott Trial Scott v Emerson

Data »

Particulars for Old Courthouse:
Area of Significance Architecture
Criteria Architecture-Engineering
Area of Significance Art
Historic Use Courthouse
Area of Significance Engineering
Owner Federal
Architectural Style Greek Revival
Sight Category Historic District
Criteria Historic Event
Area of Significance Law, Legal System
Level of Significance National
Owner Private
Historic Use Religious Property

US National Registry of Historic Places Data »

Accurate at time of registration:

Registry Name:
Registry Address:
Registry Number: 66000941
Resource Type:
Owner: Private, Federal
Architect: Saarinen,Eero; Multiple
Architectural Style: Greek revival
Other Certification: Designated National Landmark
Nominator Name: National Historic Landmark
Level of Significance: National
Area of Significance: Engineering, Art, Law, Architecture
Applicable Criteria: Event, Architecture-Engineering
Criteria Consideration: Religious property, Significance of less than fifty years
Period of Significance: 1950-1974, 1850-1874, 1825-1849
Significant Year: 1834, 1864, 1965
Historic Function: Religion, Government
Historic Sub-Function: Religious structure, Courthouse
Current Function: Recreation and Culture, Religion, Landscape
Current Sub-Function: Museum Religious structure Monument, Marker Park

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