Supreme Court of the United States
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Visiting the Court > Activities for Students & Families

Activity Booklet

Meeting Sites of the Court

Since 1935, the Supreme Court Building has been home to the nation’s highest Court, but did you know that the Supreme Court hasn’t always been located in Washington, D.C.? By law, the Supreme Court must meet in the nation’s capital. Learn where the capital was previously located and where the Supreme Court met prior to moving to Washington, D.C.

Click on the question marks below to reveal the two cities that served as the nation’s capital before Washington, D.C.

Download PDF
For more information about the building history and former meeting sites of the Court, see Building History.

View a slideshow of the meeting sites of the Supreme Court.

1 / 6
The Exchange Building
New York City, New York (1790)
The Supreme Court held its first session on February 2, 1790, in a building known as The Exchange.
2 / 6
Old City Hall, State House, and Congress Hall
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1791‐1800)
When the federal government moved to Philadelphia, the Supreme Court followed and met there in three adjoining buildings: Old City Hall (left); State House (now referred to as Independence Hall, center); and Congress Hall (right). The Court met in Philadelphia from 1791 through August 1800, with the majority of its sessions held in Old City Hall.
3 / 6
U.S. Capitol Building, circa 1848
Washington, D.C. (1801‐Present)
When the federal government moved to Washington, D.C. in 1800, there were no plans for a separate building to house the Supreme Court. As a result, the Court met in various locations. For more than 130 years, the Court met in several spaces within the U.S. Capitol Building.
4 / 6
Old Supreme Court Chamber
The Old Supreme Court Chamber (1810‐1860)
When the Senate Chamber in the North Wing of the U.S. Capitol Building was redesigned, it allowed Benjamin Latrobe to design a courtroom for the Supreme Court. The Court met here from 1810 until 1814, when British troops burned the Capitol. During the Capitol’s reconstruction, a nearby tavern and another temporary courtroom in the North Wing were used. By the February Term 1819, Latrobe’s redesigned Supreme Court Chamber was ready. This room, known today as the Old Supreme Court Chamber, was restored in the early 1970s and is sometimes open to visitors to the Capitol.
5 / 6
The Old Senate Chamber
The Old Senate Chamber (1860‐1935)
In 1859, the extension of the North Wing of the U.S. Capitol Building was completed and the Senate moved into its new home. Subsequently, in December 1860, the Supreme Court moved into the vacant “old” Senate Chamber. Reconfigured for use as the Supreme Court Room, the Court would meet here for almost 75 years. This room, also restored to its former appearance and sometimes open to visitors, is now known as the Old Senate Chamber.
6 / 6
View of the Supreme Court Building on opening day, October 7, 1935
Supreme Court Building (1935‐Present)
The Supreme Court Building, designed by Cass Gilbert, was constructed in the early 1930s. On October 7, 1935, the Justices sat for the first time in their new building.

Notice anything missing from this photo? The two marble statues, Contemplation of Justice and Authority of Law, were not installed until November 1935. They sit atop the pedestals to the left and right of the steps.


Unless otherwise noted, all images are from the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.


SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES 1 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20543