Many will remember this day in history as in 1965, construction for the now famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is finally completed. This breath-taking 630 foot-high structure made of stainless steel can be seen on the waterfront that marks the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Arch was created to mark a famous event in U.S. history achieved by the President at this time as well as honoring the city that has been associated with playing an important role in westward expansion during that time period. The Gateway Arch is also an example of the creativity and talent of the architect who made it all possible.
The design was the vision of Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-born and American-educated architect, in which the Gateway Arch was meant to be a memorial for President Thomas Jefferson’s decision to make the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and to celebrate how important St. Louis was in influencing westward expansion that would happen afterward. The town of St. Louis was the supply point and market for explorers and fur traders (including the historic men of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis); it began to increase over time due to the ending of the War of 1812. This resulted in an exodus of people who went by wagon train to west of the Mississippi River in the hopes of achieving their fortune.
Saarinen was the victor in a nationwide competition that was held in 1947-1948 in which the prize was being able to create a monument that would represent western pioneer’s spirit during those harsh times. What would later be considered as a sad twist of fate, the great architect would fall victim to a brain tumor and passed away in 1961; he was unable to see his vision come to life as construction of his now-famous arch did not begin until February of 1963.
Finally, in October of 1965, the Gateway Arch was finally completed with the cost of the structure coming to under $15 million. The frame was made from stressed stainless steel and its’ foundation is 60 feet under the ground where it is built to withstand high winds as well as earthquakes. Inside, a tram system was made that transports guests to the top and when the weather is clear, people can view 30 miles across both the Great Plains to the west and the winding Mississippi River.
Besides including the Gateway Arch, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial includes not only the Museum of Westward Expansion but the Old Courthouse that held two slavery cases of the famous Dred Scott that was heard during the 1860s. Now, roughly 4 million visitors come to the park every year to remember history, roam the vast roughly 100 acres and relish in fantastic views made available by Saarinen’s beautiful arch.