The permanent Missouri Supreme Court was established by the 1875 Missouri Constitution. Missouri’s previous and original constitution had required the Court to travel throughout the state to hear oral arguments.
The first Missouri Supreme Court Building was completed in 1878 and located just east of the Capitol building. It cost only $17,000. While construction was underway, the Court was housed in a room in the west corner of the first floor of the state’s 1840 capitol building. At the time, the Court had five judges, who had offices in rooms near the east gate, and the library was located on the second floor of the capitol building.
It was soon clear that a larger and higher quality space was needed to house the Court and its living chambers, where judges would reside for the three months out of the year in which the Court was making decisions. Missouri Governors Alexander Dockery and Joseph Folk recommended that a new state Supreme Court building be constructed.
The original building can be seen in the bottom right of the picture shown to the side. It is now the location of the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Two young St. Louis architects, Guy C. Mariner and Louis La Beaume, were selected to design the new courthouse. Mariner and La Beaume’s initial plan was that the building be constructed of limestone instead of red brick. The first floor would include offices for the state attorney general as well as the Court’s marshals and clerks; the second floor wouldd have two courtrooms, a library, rooms for court personnel, “assembly rooms for attorneys,” and “judges chambers;” the third floor would include the judges’ private rooms, with each judge having his own “retiring room,” bedroom, and bathroom. The Jefferson City Daily Tribune opened it expected the new building would be the “handsomest structure in the United States.”
The exterior is largely original. While the interior has been updated since 1907, the original layout remains. The building features a grand marble staircase in the lobby, and other exquisite French-Re- naissance-inspired architectural details. The columns in the lobby, designed to keep costs down, are painted to resemble marble. The judges’ benches in the two courtrooms are original.
The Missouri Supreme Court Library is home to over 120,000 publications. Its collection contains books of laws and statutes from every state.