Mt. Vernon Appellate Courthouse
Completed c. 1857, the Mt. Vernon Appellate Courthouse was the original home of the Southern Division of the Illinois Supreme Court until 1897. It is now home to Illinois’ Fifth District Appellate Court, and Abraham Lincoln once graced its halls and courtroom as a young attorney. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is open for tours upon request, Monday through Friday.
Backstory and Context
Construction on the two story courthouse began in 1854. It was built in the classic Greek revival style, complete with fluted pillars, high ceilings and arched doorways. With the addition of the north and south wings in 1874, the courthouse took on the shape of a huge Maltese cross. The dual, wrought iron staircases were added to the courthouse's exterior in the early 20th century and serve to add to the buildings grandeur and appeal. Most recently, in 2004, an annex was added that now houses the clerk’s office, research department and library.
The first floor contains five bedrooms, with private baths, a kitchen, dining room and lounge, all of which accommodate visiting judges. The second floor houses the judges’ chambers, attorney’s waiting room, and is dominated by the massive courtroom, complete with a 22 foot ceiling, large chandelier, ornate woodwork, and impressive judges’ bench.
In 1888, the courtroom served as a temporary hospital after a devastating tornado struck the area, under the supervision of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. However, its greatest claim to fame is the fact that it is the only courthouse, still in operation, in which Abraham Lincoln once argued cases. In 2007, a ten foot bronze statue of Lincoln was added to the courthouse grounds, and depicts him with brief case, top hat and reaching out as if to shake your hand.