Home » Gateway Arch – the most famous symbol of St. Louis

Gateway Arch – the most famous symbol of St. Louis

Panorama of St. Louis with the Gateway to the West in the foreground
Panorama of St. Louis with the Gateway to the West in the foreground

Gateway Arch- the most famous symbol of St. Louis and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States.

Since the construction of the Gateway Arch, as well as the Museum of Western Development below it (the numerous exhibits of which tell both the history of the great American expansion and the construction of the majestic monument itself) and the “Old Courthouse” built back in 1864, formed the “Jefferson and exploration of the West”. In 2018, the memorial was transformed into the newly created Gateway to the West Arch National Park.

Gate to the West
Gate to the West

Arch design

The height of the arch, as well as the distance between its supports, is 630 feet (192 meters); in cross section, it has the shape of an equilateral triangle with a side of 54 feet (16 meters) at ground level and 17 feet (5.2 meters) at the top. The shape of the arch corresponds to the so-called “chain line”, which is precisely described by trigonometric formulas and ensures an even distribution of the load.

The Gateway to the West arch and the museum below it
The Gateway to the West arch and the museum below it

The arch structure is made of 3/8″ (approx. 10 mm) thick carbon steel sheathed in 1/4″ (approx. 6.5 mm) stainless steel. The distance between the inner and outer steel “layers” is about 3 feet (0.9 meters) at the base and 7.75 inches (about 20 cm) at the top. Approximately to the middle of the height of the arch (up to a mark of 300 feet), additional reinforced concrete is poured between the layers of steel, above they are connected only by stiffeners. The arch rests on two concrete foundations that are 60 feet (about 18 meters) deep.

In the upper part inside the arch there is an observation deck, which can be reached by two “trams” – funiculars. In the dark, the arch can be illuminated with a system of spotlights.

Installing the last section of the arc
Installing the last section of the arc

History of creation

In 1933, a well-known lawyer and public figure in St. Louis, Luther Smith, proposed to create a memorial in the city dedicated to the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Smith argued that it was the “Fourth City” that was the best place to perpetuate the memory of one of the most famous American politicians, since St. Louis was directly connected with Jefferson’s most important achievement – the Louisiana Purchase. At the same time, the creation of such a memorial would significantly improve the status of the city as one of the historical centers of the United States of America.

Eero Saarinen and the layout of the future memorial
Eero Saarinen and the layout of the future memorial

Smith’s idea was supported by the mayor of St. Louis, and later by representatives of the state of Missouri in the US Congress. In June 1934, American legislators decided to establish a commission whose task was to select a site and consider projects for a future memorial. On December 21, 1935, US President Franklin Roosevelt signed an Executive Order establishing the Jefferson National Memorial and Western Settlement and providing federal funding through New Deal public works agencies.

A densely developed piece of land along the Mississippi River was chosen for the construction of the memorial in St. Louis, prompting numerous protests and legal disputes. Nevertheless, over the next four years, the National Park Service bought the buildings to be demolished, work on clearing the territory of the future memorial complex began on October 10, 1939 and was completed three years later.

Panorama of St. Louis with the Gateway to the West in the foreground
Panorama of St. Louis with the Gateway to the West in the foreground
arch opening

The arch was scheduled to be completed in 1964, in time for the St. Louis bicentennial celebrations, but construction took longer. Finally, on October 28, 1965, the last, “closing” section was mounted, in which a “time capsule” was placed with the signatures of 762,000 people.

The author of the project that later became the famous arch “Gateway to the West” Eero Saarinen did not see the embodiment of his plans in metal, he died on September 1, 1961.

Although the official opening ceremony of the monument, which was attended by US Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was held only on May 25, 1968, already on June 10, 1967, the arch was opened to visitors, and from July 24 of the same year, tourists were able to climb to its top. In the first year alone, more than six hundred thousand people visited the unusual monument.

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