Welcome to the Old Courthouse!
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. Enslaved people 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.