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Entrance To Gateway Arch Should Have Faced Downtown From The Start

July 2, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parks No Comments

On Thursday morning last week I made my first visit to the Arch since the new downtown-facing entrance opened recently. Before we get into the nw entry I need to take you back to how it was for decades.

At the base pf each leg of the Arch the walkway would slope down to the entrance was an entry/exit to the underground visitor’s center. These remain.
When security was added it was just inside the door — so the line was outside in the cold, rain, or heat.
Looking out fro the old entry/exit points. These will now be exit-only. But first you had to get here.
For many visitors that meant driving to the 1980s parking garage that was located on the North end of the grounds, then walking to the North Arch entry.
Others coming from Laclede’s Landing North of Eads Bridge or MetroLink got to walk through the 80s garage.
For those already downtown this 2010 photo showsthe highway separating downtown (left) from the Arch grounds (right). When the Arch was first planned this was the at-grade 3rd St Parkway, but it became a high speed interstate “depressed” below grade. Depressing indeed.
Construction on the “lid” over the highway, July 2014
By October 8, 2015 the entire area was closed for major construction.
Same day, same camera location, looking more tossed the Arch/river
A year later Luther Ely Smith Square was finished but work on the new Arch entry continued.
The accessible platform allows to peak over the concrete barrier & chain link fence

For so long it was just a big dirty hole, but slowly it began to take shape. Recently the entry was opened for visitors, but last week was my first visit to this entrance.

The approach to the new Arch entry feels so natural, it’s a shame it wasn’t like this 50 years ago.
Approaching from the North or South the new dug into the hill entry gradually appears.
A small plaza with water feature is in the center, forcing you to either side
Going around the center plaza will take you down to its level or go further to the outside of the circle fore the wide ramps leading to the entrance.
The center plaza
Looking back West from the center plaza
Both outside ramps lead down to the entrance — with revolving door. power operated doors tex to it for strollers, wheelchairs, etc.
From the center just inside.
Looking West from inside, very inviting! You can see ramps going off to each entry.
To the left (North) is restrooms & tickets for the trams, movies, etc. Admission to the museum is free.
To the right (south) is the entrance to take you down to the museum. This is like airport security. Unlike the old entry, this line is indoors!

The lower level was open, though the museum wasn’t — it opens tomorrow. The lower level also has the gift shop, a new restaurant, a movie theater, etc. I decided to wait so my husband could help me get through security, help with bags, wallet, etc. I’m excited by the new entrance, it’s clear to me downtown has not capitalized on the millions who’ve visited over the last half century.

Local journalist/author Jm Merkel is out with a 2nd edition of his book The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.

With his fourth book from Reedy Press, The Making of an Icon, Jim Merkel captured the spirit behind the conception and construction of one of America’s most distinctive and beloved national monuments. More than two million visitors stand in awe at the Gateway Arch each year, and the stories behind it were unearthed in breathless detail in the first edition. Back with even more lore and the addition of beautiful color images, Merkel brings new information on the Arch grounds and museum to this updated and revised second edition. Now expanded, his book includes more stories compiled from interviews with the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and intrepid workers who built the arch while one misstep away from a fatal fall. Merkel’s book will help us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that raised the Arch to the sky. (Reedy Press)

As beautiful as the Arch is, I still think razing 40 city blocks was a huge blunder that we’re still suffering from today.

— Steve PattersonT

 

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