The stately Old Courthouse has stood on its site in Gateway Arch National Park for nearly 200 years. Its courtrooms have been witness to some of the most important court cases in American history, including suits by enslaved African Americans seeking their freedom, and challenges to women’s right to vote.
But over the decades, the imposing building in downtown St. Louis has been in need of serious renovations, both to update its structural integrity and security, and to ensure accessibility for all visitors. There was also a need to substantially update the building’s exhibits to better explain the stories that unfolded within its walls.
The Old Courthouse is now closed until these renovations are complete. But let’s take a sneak peek of the fascinating exhibits now in the works for the four exhibit galleries.
Northeast Gallery: Dred and Harriet Scott – Focuses on the Scott family’s fight for freedom, which began in the Old Courthouse, and how the legal and political environment at the time culminated in the infamous U.S. Supreme Court Decision. The exhibit gallery also reflects on the legacy and relevancy of their case today.
Northwest Gallery: Pathways to Freedom – Explores African American life in St. Louis: slavery, the tortured legacy of enslaved individuals seeking freedom, post-Civil War civil rights, and more.
Southeast Gallery: Designed for Justice – Highlights the architectural features of the courthouse and the spirit of innovation of its architects, designers, builders, and craftsmen.
Southwest Gallery: See You in Court – Focuses on the importance of courts in our society, our legal structure, and the daily activities in the courthouse from 1839 to 1930. Visitors will be able to experience an 1850s courtroom and re-enact mock trials. These will further their understanding of how our court system allows us to settle disputes peacefully and provides a framework for how our society functions.
The Old Courthouse renovations are jointly funded by the National Park Service and the Gateway Arch Park Foundation.