By Nancy J. Farrier
|Night view of Gateway Arch|
|View of Gateway Arch National Park|
Luther Ely Smith, a lawyer, was traveling home to St. Louis from Indiana by train in 1933. He’d just visited the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana. When St. Louis came into view, he wondered about having a memorial that would symbolize all his beloved city stood for, something people could see and love. Smith and Mayor Bernard Dickmann worked together to start the Jeffereson National Expansion Memorial Association. (JNEMA) Smith then traveled to Washington where he met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who embraced the project. They turned the memorial into a national project in 1935 by presidential proclamation.
For several years the project was on hold, possibly due to the depression and then WWII. In 1947, the call was put out to architects, engineers, artists, and designers who were interested in the project to submit their designs. A complete booklet was sent out with the history of the area, the ground rules for the contest, the criteria that must be met, and information on how to submit their design idea.
|Model for the Gateway Arch Park|
There were many talented teams that presented ideas for both the park and the monument. Eero Saarinen and his team won the contest with their arch and the park that carried the arch theme throughout the park. His team was rounded out with sculptor Lilian Swann Saarinen, Eero’s wife, landscape architect Dan Kiley, draftsman J. Henderson Barr, and artist Alexander Girard. This was the core team, although the project involved many more skilled people.
|Gateway Arch Under Construction|
Although the design was approved in 1948, the actual construction of the Arch did not begin until 1963. The arch is 630 feet tall and the distance between the legs is the same as the height. The Arch was completed in 1965. There are two trams inside that take visitors to the viewing platform at the top of the Arch.
|Night view of Mississippi from Gateway Park|
A sad note is that Eero Saarinen died in 1961 and did not get to see the completed Arch. His design is amazing as it overlooks the Mississippi River. The accompanying park is a delight to walk through with the curved paths that reflect the design of the Arch.
Have you ever visited the Arch in St. Louis? Have you taken the tram to the viewing platform? It’s a beautiful place for a walk and the museum has a lot of excellent information.
Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning, best-selling author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats and dog, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.