Saturday, September 06, 2008

Road Trip to St. Louis

Part 4: The Arch

On Sunday, August 17, 2008, I visited the Gateway Arch with my friends Kathleen, Joey, and Susan.

Often referred to as simply “the arch,” this unique monument was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. It stands 630 feet (192 m) tall, and is 630 feet (192 m) wide at its base, making it the tallest monument in the United States. Construction of the arch started on February 12, 1963 and was completed on October 28, 1965. The monument opened to the public on July 24, 1967.

The arch is the most prominent feature of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a 91 acre (37 ha) park along the Mississippi River on the site of the original city of St. Louis and close to the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The memorial was established to commemorate several historical events: 1) the Louisiana Purchase, and the subsequent westward movement of American explorers and pioneers; 2) the first civil government west of the Mississippi River; and 3) the debate over slavery raised by the Dred Scott case.

Above and below: As well as consisting of parkland and the arch, the memorial site also includes the underground Museum of Western Expansion.

Above and below: After spending time in the Museum of Western Expansion, Kathleen, Joey and I took the arch’s unique elevator system to the top.

Wikipedia notes that “architect Eero Saarinen decided to incorporate a power lift system to obviate the need to climb the 1000-plus stairs. But the shape of the arch would have made a standard elevator impossible. After approaching several elevator companies who failed to come up with a viable method, Saarinen hired college dropout and parking-lot elevator designer Richard Bowser to do the job. Skeptical city leaders gave Bowser only two weeks to submit a design, but he succeeded. By 1968 a unique tram system that combined an elevator cable lift system with gimbaled cars functionally similar to ferris wheel gondolas had been installed.”

Above: The view from the observation area at the top of the arch.

In the photo above you can see the small windows of the observation area in the top section of the arch.

NEXT: Part 5: Carondelet.

See also the previous Road Trip to St. Louis posts:
Part 1: Following the Mississippi
Part 2: Dubuque
Part 3: St. Louis

No comments: