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Arch Construction Started 50 Years Ago Today

February 12, 2013 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation 15 Comments

Half  a century ago work began on Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel Arch.

The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. Construction began on February 12, 1963, and ended on October 28, 1965, costing US$13 million at the time (approximately $95,900,000 in 2013). The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967. (Wikipedia)

Demolition of 40 city blocks began on October 10, 1939, leaving a large area vacant for over two decades.

ABOVE:  Image from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.
ABOVE: For 20+ years the Arch site was a just massive parking lot. 
Image from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial archives.

Fast forward to today and we have efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last piece of the Arch being placed on October 28, 1965. This month they will report the progress:

CityArchRiver 2015 partners will host the third annual Report to the Community on Thursday, February 21. The report will provide the latest news and updates on the project to transform the Arch experience by making it safer and more accessible for visitors.

Representatives from CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation, the National Park Service, Haley Sharpe Design, Missouri Department of Transportation and Great Rivers Greenway District will discuss progress to date and describe new developments. Representatives will be available to answer questions and take comments during an open house immediately following the program.


The Report to the Community will be held at the Ferrara Theatre in the America’s Center at 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, Mo. 63101. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the presentation scheduled from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. After the event concludes, attendees are invited to participate in the open house in the lobby from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Press Release)

I’m looking forward to hearing the latest on this project to address connectivity issues with the site.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. Branwell1 says:

    I like the Arch. I like its stark, mysterious shape, its gleam, the overhwelming scale combined with a spare delicacy. That said, I also think it has to be one of the most ironic monuments ever devised in our land. To build it, the remaining core of the old city, including many historic, iron-fronted commercial buildings and warehouses, were leveled, and the Arch itself does not celebrate St. Louis as much as it memorializes all the people who left it.

  2. Mike says:

    The Arch is the worst thing that has ever happened to St. Louis. 40 blocks of Histoic building gone, and can never be replaced. Just think if all of that was still there. Maybe the Cardinals would of stayed at Grand and Dodier in a new stadium. A good chunk of North City would of been save as well…..

    • eric2342 says:

      You’re nostalgic for the historic buildings that were on the Arch grounds? I’m nostalgic for the even more historic trees that were there before the buildings. Luckily, since the Arch was built, we have most of the trees back. Oh, you will tell me, there are plenty of trees in other places so why do I care so much about these. Well, there are also plenty of old buildings in other places…

  3. moe says:

    Obviously no one realizes that the destruction of the neighborhood was started in 1939, when many values and mindsets were vastly different from today, just like in 75 years, there will be people calling us short sighted and such. Not to mention that ‘historic’ is relative….many of those buildings were common place, some old, many dilapidated.

    And compare that ‘historic area’ to the arch….and I wonder just which one would has done more for St. Louis. My money is on the Arch and it’s millions of visitors.

    So yeah, maybe that area could have done more and maybe the Cubs would have won the world series too since 1939.

    • branwell1 says:

      I’m aware that the Arch/Jefferson Expansion Memorial project and related demolition goes back decades prior to 1965. Also, Soulard includes and included buildings that are “common place, some old, many dilapidated” and thankfully forces once calling for its wholesale demo on those very grounds were not successful.

      If the core City of St. Louis, which was destroyed for the Arch and its grounds, was not in fact “historic”, then we can debate the historic value of famous structures in Williamsburg, Boston, and Philadelphia. Some structures are pretty soundly historic, a designation that includes a lot of research and documentation. It’s not a question of someone arbitrarily deciding something is so just because they happen to personally like it or something. It is neither random nor completely subjective.
      As I said, I like the Arch, but there is room for legitimate debate about what the city lost of itself to create a monument to all the people who went somewhere else.

    • ElDuderino says:

      “Many of those buildings were common place.”

      Yeah, common place in St. Louis, but very rare in the grand scheme of things. Open you eyes, man. St. Louis was a legitimate world class city and we fucking tore it down, much of it anyway. As a transplant it is absolutely infuriating that people in St. Louis don’t realize how special the city is (was?). With perceptions like Moe’s it’s no wonder that the city has been in decline for decades. So out of touch.

      • Moe says:

        Hard to imagine. A lot of what ifs. Wishful thinking. That’s all it is. Bottom line is no one could know what could have been if the buildings had been left. One only needs to look at Soulard, the Landing, and the Powell building. All went through periods of decline. For all any of you know, the area could be looking like Detroit.

  4. William Zbaren says:

    the 2nd largest cast iron district outside of NYC lost …. the only grace is the that the Arch is a masterpiece

  5. S says:

    Hard to imagine the massive night life, loft apt. business district this could have been. now we have a useless green space.

    • Fozzie says:

      The revisionist do-gooders that permeate this blog make me ill sometimes.

      • guest says:

        That massive nightlife shifted to Soulard. Now we have the Arch *and* Soulard!

        • moe says:

          Yeah right….there was so much nightlife in warf district….so much so in those abandoned warehouses from when the Mississippi tugs would stop in St. Louis.


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