Vince's St. Louis:
B125 - The Old Court House



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The Old Court House Original building, 1820s
Henry Singleton, 1839-1845
Robert S. Mitchell, 1852-1862
William Rumbold, 1860-1864
Status: Restored and in use as a National Park Service museum
Henry Singleton´s design for the courthouse was approved in July, 1839. The rotunda and west wing were opened in 1845. Between 1851 and 1862, the remaining wings and the dome were completed. The building is in the plan of a Greek cross. The rotunda has four circular galleries and is topped by a cast iron dome of Renaissance form. William Rumbold designed the dome, which predates the U.S. Capitol dome by two years.
There is debate as to whether or not the construction of the Capitol dome was inspired by the St. Louis dome. Besides his work on the dome, Rumbold altered the double spiraled staircase and replaced the four large stone pillars which supported the balcony with the present iron columns. The murals in the dome were done by Karl Wimar in 1862, and by E. Hore Miragoli. Those by Wimar are: Laclede selecting the site for St. Louis; DeSoto Discovering the Mississippi River; the British-Indian Attack on St. Louis, 1780; and Cochetopa Pass, Rocky Mountains. The latter two murals were retouched in the early twentieth century.
The courthouse functioned as such from 1845 to 1930. Various cases and debates occurred within its walls. It was the site of the famous Dred Scott case which ran from 1847 to 1857. Senator Thomas Hart Benton spoke there in 1849 at the Railway Convention, promoting the Transcontinental Railway. Ulysses Grant freed his one slave there. And during the 1870´s, it was the seat of the movement attempting to move the nation´s capital to St. Louis.

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