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St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Inaugurated Half A Century Ago

May 25, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation No Comments
Looking toward the Arch from 4th Street, July 2014

Fifty years ago today was the inauguration of the Gateway Arch, 10 months after the trams began taking visitors to the top: .

The arch’s visitor center opened on June 10, 1967, and the tram began operating on July 24.

The arch was dedicated by [VP Hubert] Humphrey on May 25, 1968. He declared that the arch was “a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday with the richer future of tomorrow” and brings a “new purpose” and a “new sense of urgency to wipe out every slum.” “Whatever is shoddy, whatever is ugly, whatever is waste, whatever is false, will be measured and condemned” in comparison to the Gateway Arch. About 250,000 people were expected to attend, but rain canceled the outdoor activities. The ceremony had to be transferred into the visitor center. After the dedication, Humphrey crouched beneath an exit as he waited for the rain to subside so he could walk to his vehicle. (Wikipedia)

Here’s an abbreviated  timeline leading up to the inauguration:

  • December 15, 1933: Proposal to raze original village for a riverfront memorial
  • December 21, 1935: President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an executive order approving a riverfront memorial
  • January 27, 1939: With 82 acres of property taken via condemnation, demolition of 40 city blocks began
  • May 30, 1947; Design competition opened
  • September 1, 1947: Submissions received
  • February 18, 1948: Design jury unanimously selected Saarinen’s design
  • February 12, 1963: Construction started
  • October 28, 1965: Final piece of Arch set into place
  • June 10, 1967: Visitor Center opened
  • July 24, 1967: Tram rides began
  • May 25, 1968: Inaugurated

The landscaping wasn’t done until the early 1980s.  Work is wrapping up now on phase 1 of a project to fix connectivity flaws with the original design,

— Steve Patterson


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