The razing of 40 blocks of St. Louis along the riverfront began on October 10, 1939. There was no plan at that time, a design competition wasn’t held until 1947.Â So St. Louis created the biggest surface parking lot on what was the original village.
Ground breaking for construction of the Arch was held nearly 20 years later, on June 23, 1959.Â For 20 years the only reason to connect with this location was to get to your car in a sea of cars.
Two years after the ground breaking we see that all that had changed was the reduction in the amount of land for surface parking.Â By this point the city’s leaders saw this site as a wasteland, nothing we’d ever want easy pedestrian access to.
Future mayor Raymond Tucker was 43 (my current age) when the city razed these blocks.Â One of his first duties as mayor would have been the ribbon cutting at the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex.Â He was 68 when the depressed highway lanes created a permanent divide between the central business district and what would become the Jefferson Nation Expansion Memorial we know today.Â He and others leaders at the time must have thought they were making good decisions for the future of our city.
But to them the site was simply parking.Â They worked hard to get the Arch funded and built.Â Tucker saw the Arch completed but not the landscaping, he died in 1970. This generation of men had experience with a very different St. Louis than us today.
Thank you to to Tom Bradley & Jennifer Clark of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial for the use of the above images.
- Steve Patterson