Gateway Arch

St. Louis MO 63102

Written By VAMONDE St. Louis

Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch is a 630 ft monument in St. Louis. Built out of stainless steel and in the form of a weighted catenary arch, it is the tallest arch in the world and the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere. Nicknamed a "Gateway to the West", the monument is dedicated to the American people and to the westward expansion of the United States. It has become a symbol of the city of St.Louis.

The Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947; construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 at an overall cost of $13 million. The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967. It is located at the site of St. Louis's founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River.


Around 1933, Luther Ely Smith, returning to St. Louis from the National Historic Park in Vincennes, saw the St. Louis riverfront area and envisioned that building a memorial there would both revive the riverfront and stimulate the economy. He communicated his idea to mayor Bernard Dickmann and they sanctioned the proposal, and the nonprofit Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association (JNEMA—pronounced "Jenny May") was formed. Smith was appointed the chairman and Dickmann vice-chairman.

The association expected that the monument would cost $30 million. It asked the federal government to foot three-quarters of the bill ($22.5 million).

This proposal came to President Roosevelt in 1935 who signed Executive Order 7253 to approve the memorial, allocating the 82-acre area as the first National Historic Site. The order also appropriated $3.3 million through the WPA and $3.45 million through the PWA ($6.75 million in total). The motivation of the project was two-fold—commemorating westward expansion and creating jobs.

Construction began in 1963 after the design was finalized and funds were sourced to complete the monument. In 1965, the monument was nearing completion and included a time capsule with signatures of over 700,000 children in its keystone. The dedication ceremony was attended by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The arch officially opened to the public in 1967.

Visitor center

The underground visitor center for the arch was designed to be located directly below the arch, between its legs. The center opened with several exhibits in 1967 and contains offices and other administrative and support spaces. Access to the visitor center is provided through ramps adjacent to each leg of the arch.

Observation area

Near the top of the Arch, passengers exit the tram compartment and climb a slight incline to view the observation area. This arched deck can hold up to about 160 people. There are sixteen windows per side that offer views up to 30 mi to the east across the Mississippi River and southern Illinois with its prominent Mississippian culture mounds at Cahokia Mounds and to the west over the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County beyond.

Modes of ascent

There are three modes of transportation up the arch: two sets of stairs with 1,076 steps, a 12-passenger elevator to the 372 ft height, and a tram in each leg.

Each tram is a chain of eight, five-seat compartments with a small window on the doors. Trams departing from the ground every 10 minutes. The cars swing like Ferris-wheel cars as they ascend and descend the arch. The trip to the top takes four minutes, and the trip down takes three minutes.

Information sourced from Wikipedia. Cover image by Daniel Schwen and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Iconic St. Louis Buildings

Gateway Arch

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