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Gateway Arch Topped Out Forty-Five Years Ago Today

October 28, 2010 Downtown, History/Preservation, Parks 6 Comments

img_1031Forty-five years ago Saarinen’s Arch was completed:

“During a nation-wide competition in 1947-48, architect Eero Saarinen’s inspired design for a 630-foot stainless steel arch was chosen as a perfect monument to the spirit of the western pioneers. Construction of the Arch began in 1963, and was completed on October 28, 1965, for a total cost of less than $15 million. The Arch has foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, and is built to withstand earthquakes and high winds; it sways up to 1 inch in a 20 mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches. A Grand Staircase leads from the St. Louis levee up to the base of the Gateway Arch.” (NPS)

It would be a number of years before the landscaping around the Arch would be completed but for decades the site looked like this:

Image courtesy of JNEM/NPS

Of course before it was a parking lot it was 40 city blocks of the original St. Louis.

Five years from today we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Arch.  Civic leaders hope to show off revised access to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, I hope they succeed.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Justin says:

    sad to see the surrounding area (east st. louis and st. louis city) and the people in such despair. ineffective educational system, few city amenities, high unemployment, high crime (violent), where does the list end. All this beautification will mean nothing without healthy happy people to enjoy the benefits. why focus resources and energy to make such drastic changes to the city physically when it needs infrastructure services improved schools etc… new parks, redeveloping the river arch grounds, tearing out hwy 70 does not seem to have a plan for helping people to improve their and their family's lives. just an alternate point of view. i have been in and around downtown st. louis since 1987. poeple need to come to terms we do not have a heavy density of people to support or justify such large projects, this said we are still looking for a downtown spot to move into.

  2. tibby says:

    Downtown St. Louis was my childhood home. I rarely remember venturing east of 270. Now, the city is on the cusp of creating the kind of critical mass that could draw visitors to the city center. The City Museum and Citygarden have added so much to the downtown experience. Van Valkenburgh's design for the Gateway Arch grounds is all positive.

    • Justin says:

      city garden and city museum really do enhance the city and there is a lot of bang for the buck. i have lived and worked in both areas and the projects make me and many others smile. the arch grounds redevelopment will not have the impact with the amount of resource and displacement it will cause. – believe me these are monumental issues which have not been figured out and will cause this to be like the big dig in boston. obviously, the arch grounds is on a much smaller scale, but we are talking about a much smaller scale of people and potential growth too.

      • JZ71 says:

        The Arch is no more of an economic generator than the Liberty Bell is in Philadelphia or the Lincoln Museum is in Springfield. It's a strong symbol and entices a steady stream of tourists to stop on their transcontinental trips, but for most, it's a one-time visit. Our challenges as a city have very little to do with the Arch and very much to do with a transition from an industrial economy to some other kind – health care, higher education and distribution all seem to be holding their own, but none of them make us unique nor do any of them provide many opportunities for displaced union factory workers. You're right, the money spent improving the Arch could probably be better spent elsewhere (McKee's Northside project?), but this one has champions and funding, while real economic development plans seem to be lacking both, along with any sort of cohesive vision . . .

  3. Alfred Fickensher says:

    If I may offer a comment about the old area there: In August 1964 I entered college and arrived in St Louis on an Illinois Central train that traveled south along the riverfront past the two at that time barely above ground, legs of the Arch. Just south of the Arch project area the tracks, still well-above ground on steel trestles turned to the right, west, and pointed generally toward Union Station.

    I remember looking down as we passed above people's houses and yards and seeing goats in more than one backyard. The houses probably dated well back into the turn-of-the-century and everything was brown and dingy; the houses themselves the yard wood fences, and the yards themselves – no green to be seen. Goats in city backyards, and several, not just one. Goats, in 1964.

    Over the next several years of college and first job I certainly moved past that first impression and came to really like StL, but the memory of the monocolor neighborhood and the livestock does remain vivid.

    BTW, it was exciting to watch the Arch being built and even more so to be among the first paying visitors on the day it opened to the public.

  4. G-Man says:

    It's bad enough that they clearcut the warehouses, but too bad they couldn't have maintained the historic sloping topography as in the photo above. I don't like the man-made hills and fake lakes currently at the site.


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