Old Courthouse getting multi-million dollar renovation

Accessibility, structural updates and new displays included in two-year project
Old Courthouse renovations
Photo credit Gateway Arch Park Foundation

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - After revitalizing the Gateway Arch grounds, museum and park and Kiener Plaza, the CityArchRiver project is turning its attention to the one of the most historically significant buildings in the city of St. Louis, the Old Courthouse.

It's planning a multi-million dollar renovation, that will add an elevator, a new HVAC system and renovate floors and ceilings. Exhibits will be upgraded to focus on The Dred and Harriet Scott case, the lives of free and enslaved African Americans in St. Louis, the Courthouse's history and the history and importance of the court system.

Old Courthouse Rotunda
Old Courthouse Rotunda Photo credit (Provided by Gateway Arch Park Foundation)

"It will bring exhibits that were produced anywhere from the 1970's through the '90's to the 21st Century," says Museum Services Program Manager Pam Sanfillipo. "It really compliments the same exhibit development that was done down at the Arch museum."

The project is part of the final component of the $380 million CityArchRiver project. The cost of the renovations has not been determined, but Gateway Arch Park Foundation Executive Director Ryan McClure says it will be several million dollars. Bids will go out in the summer. Work is scheduled to begin late this year with completion planned for late 2023.

It will be only the second significant renovation of the Old Courthouse since it was built between 1839 and 1862.

The new exibits will be:

Northeast Gallery: Dred and Harriet Scott – Focuses on the 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 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 that will further their understanding of how our court system allows us to settle disputes peacefully and provide a framework for how our society functions.