St. Louis Arch is a tall steel structure on Mississippi River's west bank, more precisely at St. Louis Foundation in Missouri. It took almost two and a half years to build the 630 feet tall structure. The unique feature of this structure is that it rests only on the support of its legs. Such types of structures are called catenary structures. In the case of St. Louis Arch, the structure is flattened.
How the Arch was Built
A lot of math went into sculpting and constructing St. Louis Arch. It can be best described as stacking of a series of equilateral triangle shaped steel units from one end that narrow gradually as they reach the highest point, where a similar stacking from the other leg of the arch joins to complete the arch. In 1998, some lighting was added to this awesome structure. However, it looks spectacular with the pink light reflecting from its surface in October. This colored lighting is in honor of the BCAM or the breast cancer awareness month. Others also illuminate this arch now for publicity.
St. Louis Arch has been built in honor of Thomas Jefferson, and other illustrious Americans who are responsible for the Westward expansion of the country. In Jefferson's time, part of the western America was in the hands of Napoleon. However, Jefferson realized the importance of that region, especially New Orleans for America's trade with other nations.
It was hard to get those lands and ports out of the hands of the French. However, in 1803, after years of persuasion, Napoleon agreed to sell the entire Western region in North America that was held by the French for 15 million dollars, and Jefferson agreed to the deal. This deal got him the lands for less than 4 cents per acre. Eventually, of course, the westward expansion has proved to be very profitable for the Americans. Hence, the St. Louis Arch is also known as Gateway arch.
Objective of Building the Gateway Arch
The objective of building such a structure was also to improve the waterfront in the region, revive the economy through increased economic activity, and generate employment for many people during the great depression. Though Luther Ely Smith proposed to build the memorial in honor of Jefferson and others in 1933, construction began only in 1963. This modern marvel is built by JNEMA or the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association, which is a not for profit organization.
Financing, the Biggest Hurdle
Initial budget including the construction cost for this memorial was $30 million dollars. Smith and others from JNEMA proposed to raise about $22.5 million of this estimated cost from the federal government. There was considerable opposition for spending monies on building this structure back then. However, JNEMA and other supporters including a few congressmen, continued relentlessly on their path. Eventually, they did get relevant approvals, but other hurdles were awaiting them. Between 1936 and 1939 JNEMA fought several land acquisition cases and litigations.
Smith was determined to build a memorial that would be aesthetically pleasing to eye, and evoke some spiritual feelings as well. So he needed an architect who could come up with something unique. JNEMA held a design competition in 1940's. Eero Saarinen, an American architect of Finnish origin, won the competition in 1947. His team included structural engineer Haanskari Bandel, associate designer, J. Handerson Barr, landscape architect, Dan Kiley, sculptor Lily Swann Saarinen, and painter Alexander Girard.
One of the biggest hurdles emerged at this stage. Everybody involved in the project liked Saarinen's design for the memorial. However, an existing railroad could mar the view from Saarinen's structure. It was decided to relocate the rail road by sending it underground. In the process a few more years were lost. However, bidding for building this structure was completed in January of 1962. MacDonald Construction Company won it. The contract value was $11,442,418.
What you will see and Experience
Almost all tourists arriving in the US include Missouri's St. Louis Arch in their itinerary. It qualifies as Missouri's tallest structure that can be accessed. In fact it is the tallest such structure in the US as of date. This means people can go 630 feet above ground and look around and below from that height. There are windows provided on its observation deck for this. A tram takes people to this observation deck. St. Louis Arch complex includes a visitor center, which is an underground area. Ramps near the arch's legs lead people down to this area.
Sometimes the lines are long when going to visit the St. Louis Gateway Arch. You will have to stand in long lines to go through metal detectors and screening. This is a federal building and maintained by federal employees. Security is important because there are bad people who want to create a name for themselves by killing innocent people and destroying national landmarks. The St. Louis Arch is a very special building and an easy target for these cowards.
After standing in the long lines to be screened and you get to finally go in, you will have to wait to catch the tram. Sometimes this will take quite a long time depending on how many people is there that day. It is usually quite a few on the weekends. Your best bet is to go during the week and day if you can. Winter time is best. While you are waiting on the tram, you will to want to walk around the area below ground. This is a museum with a lot of history related exhibits. After you have seen all the exhibits, you can go into the gift shop and let your children and grandchildren beg for everything in there. There are some great items that you will even want. Do not forget to get things for the people back home. Do not let the long lines discourage you. Your experience will be great.
St. Louis' Arch was built by less than 100 persons. This was way below the initially estimated manpower requirement, i.e., 5000 employees. The Gateway Arch did trigger the economy in its vicinity as expected. In fact, the St. Louis Gateway Arch created opportunity for many all over the world. There has been countless number of jobs supported by this immaculate building.
Don’t forget to record your memories and take many pictures. Hopefully, when you come back to the St. Louis Gateway Arch you will bring others. Come to St. Louis and see other attractions as well. Look for things to do in St. Louis and stay awhile. I remember going to The Arch when I was younger. I loved bringing my family back even more. The St. Louis Arch is defiantly a must see for anyone’s bucket list.