Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

The Gateway Arch, the most identifiable part of St. Louis, is a 630-foot monument clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch.  The Gateway Arch is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere today, and the tallest accessible build in Missouri.  It has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis and one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.

Located at the site of St. Louis’ founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the Gateway Arch carries the history of the city and the country. Unfortunately, it has been the site of multiple incidents, accidents, and stunts, including the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the September 11th attacks.  Since then, the Arch has been the recipient of several security updates and redevelopments.

History of the Gateway Arch

The Arch was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States.  It was dedicated to the “American people” in its erection and stood in the center of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

During late 1933, a civic leader at the time, Luther Ely Smith, who was returning from George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, looked out over the St. Louis riverfront area.  He envisioned building a memorial there that would revive the riverfront while stimulating the local economy, making St. Louis a place people wanted to be.  He took his idea straight to mayor Bernard Dickmann, who raised the idea with city leaders late that year.  The nonprofit Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association was subsequently formed to oversee the construction of the Arch.

After years of battles with the public over how public funds were distributed for the project, the Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947. Construction was officially underway by February 12, 1963.  The Arch was completed on October 28, 1965, costing $13 million in total (when adjusted for inflation, $195 million today).

The monument became accessible to the public on June 10, 1967.

The Gateway Arch Today

Unfortunately, contrary to Smith’s dream, tourists have not embraced the Arch as the architects had expected.  Experts predicted that three million tourists would visit the Arch after completion every year, but the Arch only realized about 619,763 after its first year of construction.  It took four years for the Arch to receive the one-millionth visitor from Nashville, Tennessee. Then, it took ten more years for the arch to reach its ten millionth visitor.

It is essential to note that the Arch is still a necessary part of St. Louis today.  In 1974, data confirmed that it was the 4th most-visited man-made attraction in the U.S. Right now, the Arch receives close to 4 million visitors per year, more in-line with what the founders had envisioned.

On June 2, 1987, it was listed as a National Historic Landmark. In addition, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gateway Arch is located at 100 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63102.

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