HISTORY OF THE GATEWAY ARCH
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) was created in 1935, and became part of the National Park Service.
Civic leader Luther Ely Smith conceived the idea of building a memorial to help revive the riverfront and memorialize the story of the nation’s westward expansion. Through a nationwide design competition conducted 1947-1948, Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel Arch was chosen as the memorial that would celebrate the accomplishments of early pioneers. St. Louis celebrated with a groundbreaking on June 32, 1959.
Over the next few years, Saarinen perfected his design and workers began excavating the grounds in 1961.
In 1962, the Bi-State Development (BSD) was asked to finance the $2 million tram system that transports visitors to and from the top of the Arch. Meanwhile, it took steadfast coordination to put every piece of the Arch into place until the final section at the top of the Arch was secured on October 28, 1965.
Trams became operational in 1967, thanks to the funds that BSD raised by selling revenue bonds. In the same year, the Visitor Center, with exhibits, opened to the public.
Less than a decade later, the massive Museum of Westward opened beneath the Arch, featuring exhibits on St. Louis’ role as the Gateway to the West. Improvements to the monument continued as engineers added floodlights to illuminate the Arch exterior in 2001. Approximately two years later, the Grand Staircase, which spans from the levee at the Mississippi River banks to the base of the Arch, was completed.
In 2009, a non-profit organization called CityArchRiver 2015 spearheaded a project that will transform JNEM by creating a safe and inviting pedestrian bridge over the highway and a new museum beneath the Arch. After renovations, visitors will also encounter a new entrance to the facility and greater accessibility throughout the grounds. Groups traveling by bus will have more convenient access to drop-offs and parking, as well as to new performance spaces on the grounds. Bicyclists will enjoy extended bike trails.
Today, BSD continues to operate the trams as a cooperative effort with the National Park Service. October 28, 2015 marked the 50th Anniversary of the completion of the Arch.
MORE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE GATEWAY ARCH
Thanks to hundreds of workers, the Arch was completed within budget and without the loss of one life.
Discover everything you want to know about the Gateway Arch with these frequently and not so frequently asked questions!
ST LOUIS ARCH FAQS
WHY WAS THE GATEWAY ARCH BUILT?
The structure was built as a monument to the vision of Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States.
HOW TALL IS THE GATEWAY ARCH?
630 feet, which is 63 stories, 192 meters, or 7560 inches tall
HOW WIDE IS THE GATEWAY ARCH?
The span is 630 feet at ground level between the outer sides of the legs.
HOW WIDE ARE THE LEGS AT THE BASE?
HOW WIDE IS THE TOP?
HOW MANY STAINLESS STEEL SECTIONS ARE THERE?
HOW MUCH DOES THE GATEWAY ARCH WEIGH?
WHAT IS THE GATEWAY ARCH MADE OUT OF?
Steel and concrete. Double wall construction with 1/4″ stainless steel on the outside and 3/8″ structural steel on the inside. The distance between the wall or “skins” at the surface is 3 feet, narrowing to less than 1 foot at the top. There is a layer of concrete between the skins approximately half way up the legs of the Gateway Arch.
WHO WAS THE ARCHITECT?
Eero Saarinen won a national competition and the prize of designing the memorial in 1947.
WHAT IS THE SPEED OF THE TRAM CAPSULES?
340 feet per minute, approximately 3.86 miles per hour
DOES THE ARCH SWAY?
The Arch is designed to sway as much as 18 inches, and can withstand an earthquake, however under normal conditions the Arch does not sway. It takes a 50-mile an hour wind to move the top 1.5 inches each side of the center.
WHAT RIVER IS THAT DIRECTLY BELOW?
The Mississippi River flows directly below the east windows of the Arch at a normal top water speed of 3 miles per hour at a depth of about 12-15 feet. The Missouri River meets the Mississippi River about 15 miles to the north of the Arch.
Begin your experience by exploring the Old Courthouse, a historical landmark where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for freedom from slavery and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. Explore exhibits describing how St. Louis served as a hub for early settlers moving west.
Explore a significant part of U.S. history when you visit the Old Courthouse, which was built between 1839 and 1862. Tour this architectural masterpiece with restored courtrooms and experience a time and place where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. Through special exhibits, learn about St. Louis’ role in early settlers’ movement into Western America.
DRED SCOTT (1800? — 1858)
Dred Scott was a man born into slavery who tried many times, but failed, to gain his freedom through the Missouri courts. When his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the differences between proslavery and antislavery opinions in the United States were very clear. The controversial outcome of Dred Scott’s court case eventually contributed to the outbreak of civil war between the southern and northern states.
Dred Scott was born into slavery sometime in 1795, in Southampton County, Virginia. He made history by launching a legal battle to gain his freedom. After his first owner died, Scott spent time in two free states working for several subsequent owners. Shortly after he married, he tried to buy freedom for himself and his family but failed, so he took his case to the Missouri courts, where he won only to have the decision overturned at the Supreme Court level, an event so controversial it was harbinger for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and inevitably of the Civil War. Scott died in 1858.