I love the Gateway Arch. Every time I look at it I think it is totally insane that it exists. It is huge and breathtaking. Just one of the many things that makes St. Louis Rocks!
This week the grand (re)opening of the museum at the Gateway Arch National Park was celebrated. It is the culmination of a groundbreaking $380 million public-private partnership effort to refresh the Gateway Arch National Park, the museum and related areas including a portion of the riverfront, the Old Courthouse and Kiener Plaza. It’s really well-done. If you live near St. Louis (or plan on visiting) it is really worth it to check it out.
Here are some interesting facts about the Arch, the Gateway Arch National Park and related areas:
- The Arch is 630 feet tall making it the world’s tallest arch and the tallest man-made monument in the western hemisphere. It also is 630 feet wide.
- The Arch is the most famous example of a “weighted catenary arch.” A catenary arch is the shape created by a hanging chain of uniform links. A weighted catenary is “the form taken by a ‘weighted chain’ in which the various links are of different weight, rather than all the same.” The Gateway Arch was built to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and westward expansion dream and “in a truly strange coincidence, the first use of ‘catenary’ recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is by the future President Thomas Jefferson, in a letter dated December 23, 1788 to Thomas Paine, recommending the use of a catenary arch rather than a circular one for a 400-foot span iron bridge that Paine is proposing to build.” The source of this quote as well as more details about of the shape of the Gateway Arch can be found here: How the Gateway Arch Got its Shape
- Eero Saarinen is the architect who designed the Arch. He won a design competition in 1947 for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Saarinen also designed terminals at Dulles International Airport and JFK International Airport. He is also famous for his furniture design, most of all for this table:
Saarinen tulip table
- Construction began on February 12, 1963, and was completed on October 28, 1965, for $13 million (equivalent to about $103 million today). It was a hot day and firemen had to spray water on the two legs of the Arch causing it to contract so the last piece, at the very top, could fit. The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967.
- Although it was estimated by an actuarial firm that about 13 workers could be expected to die while constructing the arch, there were no deaths due to its construction.
- By act of Congress in February, 2018, the name of the park was changed from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (a mouthful, no doubt) to Gateway Arch Park National Park (which is what most people called it anyway).
- Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, which runs along the river at the base of the Arch was raised 2 feet to dramatically reduce the number of days a year it will be flooded thereby enabling additional utilization of the Arch grounds.
- The “Old Courthouse” is part of Gateway Arch National Park. At one time it was the St. Louis County Courthouse but became a St. Louis City Court when the city and county split in 1877. It was the site of the Dred Scott v. Sandford trial in which slaves Dred Scott and his wife sued for their freedom as they had been taken to free states. Ultimately the case ended up before the United States Supreme Court where, by a 7-2 decision, the court held that slaves could not be American citizens and thus had no standing to sue in Federal court. Needless to say, it was a controversial decision and is considered to be a factor leading to the Civil War.
Eero Saarinen was also the architect for the General Motors Warren Technical Center – where I work.
Wonderful tribute to the arch. I remember watching it be erected and was very amazed at the engineering feat.
Good read on a truly world class civic asset for St Louis.