Scenic USA - Missouri

Old St. Louis Courthouse

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Old St Louis Courthouse - St Louis, Missouri

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

   Located in downtown St. Louis along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch make up the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Old Courthouse may look like a capital building, but curious visitors soon find its true purpose. Most sightseers are content to stay across the street at the 630 foot tall Gateway Arch, a landmark that dominates the skyline and attracts everyone's full attention.
   Over 175 years old, construction on the Greek Revival style courthouse building began in 1839. Built alongside the 1826 original building, by 1852, courthouse expansion replaced the initial footprint. Official courthouse functions ceased nearly a century later, but during its tenure history witnessed one of the most famous trials in American. It was here in the Old Courthouse where Dred Scott filed his first lawsuit. Although the Scott's won the 1850s decision, it wasn't final. In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Scott had no right to bring suit into a Federal Court and Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories. Although set free by his original master, Dred Scott lived only a short time with his new found freedom, a decision reversed by the highest court. Dred Scott never saw the Gateway Arch - Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St Louis, Missouri beginning of the Civil War either, but brought the thorny issue of slavery to the courts and to all of America.
   The Old Courthouse Museum is filled with special details, including its stately rotunda, murals, an unusual spiral staircase and gift shop. Two second floor courtrooms have been restored to their original condition, furnished with original and reproduction furniture. The National Park Service often conducts mock trials, and quite often visitors play key roles in the reenactment. It's unfortunate that most Gateway Arch visitor bypass this historic experience.

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