News & Politics

The Supreme Court Building, Then and Now

The Supreme Court is so grand it looks like it has been on its current plot since the birth of the republic, but it’s only been open since 1935. Before that point, the court moved around, mostly within the Capitol, never having a space to call its own. Across the street, however, was a brick building initially built as a temporary capitol, which went on to become a boarding house, a school, and eventually a Civil War prison. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, people authorities suspected of having a part in the plot–including Mary Surratt and Ford’s Theater owner John T. Ford–were held there. The old brick house was demolished in 1867. By 1928, Congress passed the Public Building Act, which included the construction of the Supreme Court Building.

Photograph of the old Capitol Prison by William Redish Pywell. Building photographed between 1861 and 1865. Via Library of Congress. Supreme Court photograph by Zack Bu.

Editorial Fellow

Zack Bu is an editorial fellow. He graduated from Columbia Journalism School with a concentration in data journalism. He writes and codes and is passionate about combing the two. He’s written for Quartz and