Cahokia Courthouse was built as a residence around 1740,
when present-day Illinois was a colony of France. In 1793
the structure was purchased by the Common Pleas Court of
the United States Northwest Territory and subsequently became
a center of territorial political and legal activity. The
building is historically significant as the oldest courthouse
in Illinois and the only one remaining from the state’s
territorial period (1787-1818). It is architecturally significant
as an example of the French Colonial vertical log poteaux-sur-solle
(“post-on-sill”) construction technique.
The Courthouse was moved to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s
Fair, and in 1906 to Chicago’s Jackson Park. Each
move resulted in losses of original building fabric. Cahokia
residents began in the late 1920s to lobby for return of
the historic courthouse, leading the state to purchase the
building and the land on which it was originally located.
The remaining original fabric was returned to Cahokia and
incorporated into the building that was constructed on the
courthouse foundation. Cahokia Courthouse in 1972 was placed
on the National Register of Historic Places.
vertical-log Courthouse has a double-pitch roof of cedar
shingles and galleries on all four sides. Inside are three
exhibit rooms and another furnished to represent the courtroom
in the 1790s. Exhibits in the Courthouse depict issues that
came before the court around 1800 and a history of the structure
as it was moved in the early twentieth century to St. Louis
and Chicago before its eventual return to Cahokia. Interior
features include two massive limestone fireplaces, shuttered
casement windows, and French-style doors.
The Courthouse staff and volunteers provide guided tours,
or guests may experience the site at their leisure. Exhibits
in the Courthouse depict issues that came before the court
around 1800 and a history of the structure as it was moved
in the early twentieth century to St. Louis and Chicago
before its eventual return to Cahokia. The Courthouse is
not fully accessible to persons with disabilities. The visitor
center houses exhibits depicting the Jarrot Mansion, currently
undergoing restoration, and placing area historic sites
within the context of the eighteenth-century French occupation.
Cahokia Courthouse hosts special events including an annual
Fete du Bon Vieux Temps (“Festival of the Good Old
Days”), a colonial Mardi Gras celebration. At the
July “Old Time Music Fete,” traditional acoustic
musicians perform from the Courthouse porch. Contact the
site for details.