Gateway Arch National Park: The Old Courthouse

Saint Louis

Gateway Arch National Park commemorates Saint Louis’s role in the westward expansion of the United States. Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, Saint Louis was the ideal location from which to explore America’s new territories. The park also houses the Old Courthouse as well as the Cathedral.

The French founded Saint Louis in 1764. They developed trade with the Osage Indians. The city grew into a successful fur trading post.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana purchase. The new territory doubled the size of the United States. Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on a mission to explore the new lands. Lewis and Clark set out from Camp Dubois in May of 1804 to establish a route up the Missouri River to the Pacific. They returned to St. Louis in 1806.

The Old Courthouse

I visited this park with the National Park Travelers Club. We started our tour with a ranger talk in front of The Old Courthouse. The park closed the courthouse to visitors in order to renovate it. The superintendent of the park gave us a presentation on the significance of the building and the plans for the new exhibits when it reopens.

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse began as a combination federal and state courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1846 the enslaved Dred Scott sued for his and his wife’s freedom as they had been held as slaves in free states. All of the trials took place in the Old Courthouse. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 ruled against the Scotts, saying they did not have grounds as citizens to sue. This decision plunged the country into Civil War.

In 1872 Virginia Minor attempted to vote in a St. Louis election and was arrested. Her trials were held in this building. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the male-only voting rules, as the Constitution did not yet address voting rules. At the time, the states made the rules as to who could and couldn’t vote.

St. Louis Posts

Location: 11 N 4th St #1810, St. Louis, MO 63102
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: February 22, 2018
Date of my visit: July 14, 2022

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