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The Arch of St Louis

Updated on March 20, 2011

The Origin

In 1928, the city of St Louis gave birth to a plan to establish a monument in honor of the Lewis & Clark expedition . These explored and mapped the newly bought territory of the Louisiana Purchase .

St Louis was the "gateway" to the West, and therefore an "arch" seemed to be the appropriate symbol.

In 1947, the city launched an architectural competition for the best project, and the Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen came up with the project of The Gateway Arch.

Obviously, if only for political reasons, the monument was supposed to outdo every other structure in existence... The city expropriated no less than 85 acres of land, and 36 blocks were demolished to make room for the monument.

However, it took until 1959 before everything was torn down and cleaned up.

The Funding

After that began the eternal political discussion about nickels and dimes... After much ado Congress appropriated 24 million dollars and finally the real work could begin.

Construction began in 1963 and lasted for two years.

It was a masterpiece of engineering, precision and assembly, despite the extreme technical and practical difficulty.

And there were only a mere 37 years between the adoption of the concept in the city council and the end of the construction...

The Construction

The monument is 630 feet high and 630 feet wide, and it was built to withstand storm winds of 140 mph.

The maximum lateral movement is 1.5 foot.

The Visitors Center presents an interesting 25-minute documentary, called "Monument to the Dream View".

It gives a breathtaking description of the construction of this work of art.

The images of the workers, crawling around on top of this mountainous construction, are downright dizzying... Even more so when one considers that they did so with hardly any protection !

The Cost

The construction, expropriations and related work totaled approximately $ 30 million, even if the official estimate remained firmly rooted at an unwavering $ 15 million...

The Visit

On the Mississippi Riverside you'll see plenty of cruise boats for the tourists.

All of them have picturesque names like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, after Mark Twain's books. In most of these, the story was set in Huntington, just across the river, as Mark Twain himself was a first mate on a Mississippi river boat for years.

After a rigorous security check we were allowed to enter.

Inside the monument, there is a "tram" that will bring you all the way up to the Observation Deck, but be warned ; it is incredibly high !

It climbs to the top in 4 minutes, and it takes about 3 minutes to descend on the other side. This elevator can carry 40 people at a time, and there are 80 lifts per day.

The Arch of St. Louis is a remarkable monument, located on the banks of theMississippi. It has been built in the form of an arch, or more irreverently, half of the "M" of McDonald's...

Look at Missouri's other POI's, at !


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