Missouri's Gateway to The West

The Gateway to West

In St. Louis, Missouri, on the west side of the Mississippi River, stands a towering steel formation known as the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The monument is a symbol of American history, as well as St. Louis history. In the 19th century, many settlers and adventurers, including Lewis and Clark, launched their journeys to the West from St. Louis. This resulted in some people calling St. Louis "The Gateway to the West." The significance of the monument is that it was designed to pay tribute to the role of St. Louis in the westward expansion of America. People who are unfamiliar with it will be impressed by its craftsmanship and overall appeal.

The origins of the Arch came from an attorney named Luther Ely Smith in 1933, who first contemplated building a monument to revitalize St. Louis riverfront area during the depths of the Great Depression. The project was delayed for various reasons until 1937, when Eero Saarinen, an architect, and Hannskarl Bandel, an engineer, created the design for the Gateway Arch. It wasn't until 1959 that construction crews broke ground for the Arch, but it wasn't until 1963 that construction actually began. This was due to a multitude of issues that came up, including acquiring a location for the project, as well as securing funding. The project's promoters also had to overcome local opposition, citing important benefits such as the creation of jobs. Zoning issues, and railroad relocation negotiations. Even the Korean War served to hold up the construction. Once started, however, it took less than three years to complete the project, and a little over four years before it was opened to the public in 1967.

The Arch is 630 feet in height, and its width is 630 feet between the sides of its legs. It weighs over 17,000 tons, and stands 18 degrees off from sitting north and south. It is wider at its legs than it is at its apex, which makes it a structure called a weighted catenary. It is designed to withstand an earthquake and can sway 18 inches. It is also designed to withstand winds up to 50 miles per hour. At its apex, it has an observation deck which is serviced by a tram that runs inside its hollowed structure. The entire Arch is made of over 2,700 tons of steel, which is more steel that has ever been used in a single project in American history. The most unique aspect of construction was that it is a curved structure designed for human occupancy, and is not straight up and down like major skyscraper projects.

Today the Arch has a number of attractions for visitors to experience. Not only can they ride one of the two trams to the observation deck at the top of the monument, but the four minute ride is also narrated. In addition, tourists may visit the Museum of Westward Expansion in the Visitor Center which is located underground. There are also two theaters located in the Visitor Center. The original theater was built in 1972 and the newer theater, which is called the Odyssey Theater, has a four story screen and was built 20 years later.

Interesting Facts

  • Every year there are over four million visitors who come from all over the world.

  • In the U.S., it the largest man-made monument.

  • The Arch, as well as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, have been a National Historic Landmarks since 1987.

  • The project was projected to cost $30 million in 1933 dollars, but ultimately cost only $13 million in 1967 dollars to build. This comes out to over $90 million in today's dollars.

  • There are 1,076 stairs, however, they are only for emergency purposes and for maintenance.

  • The windows in the observation deck are only 7-inches by 27-inches. This is because larger windows would not have been able to stand the pressure that was used to jack the legs apart.

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