Gateway Arch: Welcome to the West

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. (photo by Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons)
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. (Photo by Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1968, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, was dedicated.

Here are some things you may not have known about it.

The Gateway Arch is a monument to the western expansion of the United States. It sits in the center of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the western bank of the Mississippi River.

One of the first ideas for a monument on the site came in 1933 when a committee was formed to promote the idea. Several ideas were floated in the next 14 years, but none of them came to fruition. In 1945, a design competition was undertaken to determine the design of the memorial.

The eventual winner was architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the TWA Terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the CBS Building in New York and Washington-Dulles International Airport.

Groundbreaking, however, wouldn’t happen for more than 10 years, as problems with funding and the relocation of railroad tracks delayed construction until June of 1959. The first part of the project was moving the train tracks into a new tunnel through the site. Bidding for the contract to construct the arch itself happened four months after Saarinen’s death as the result of a brain tumor in September 1961.

Construction was slow because of the complicated design along with work slowdowns and stoppages.

The keystone piece of the arch was welded into place on October 28, 1965, and construction continued into 1968. The arch was dedicated in a ceremony featuring Vice President Hubert Humphrey on May 25, 1968. A statue of Thomas Jefferson was added in 1976 and the accompanying museum opened in 1977.

The arch is 630 feet tall and an equal distance wide. It’s the world’s tallest arch, the tallest stainless steel monument in the world,  and the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. It was built to withstand winds of 150 miles per hour and is designed to sway up to 18 inches.

There is an observation area at the top of the arch that is accessed by taking a tram-like elevator that travels inside the curved legs of the arch. The lifts are sort of like a combination between an elevator and a ferris wheel car.

Since it opened, more than 25 million visitors have traveled to the top.

Our question: The Lewis and Clark expedition began at St. Louis on the Mississippi River in 1804. The expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 near the mouth of what other river?

Today is International Missing Children’s Day, Africa Day and Independence Day in Jordan.

It’s unofficially Geek Pride Day, and Towel Day, honoring the works of writer Douglas Adams.

It’s the birthday of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was born in 1803, author Robert Ludlum, who was born in 1927, and director and Muppeteer Frank Oz, who is 72 today.

This week in 1968, the top song in the U.S. was “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell and The Drells.

The No. 1 movie was “2001: A Space Odyssey,” while the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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