At an astounding 630-feet tall, the magnificent Gateway Arch remains the tallest man-made national monument in the United States. Its unique shape and stainless steel facade remarkably represent the history made in the city of St. Louis. An enclosed tram inside the Arch takes you to the top, where you will experience breathtaking views of modern St. Louis – up to 30 miles in each direction on a clear day. Along with the surrounding Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch opens up a world of history about how St. Louis served as the Gateway to the West for early settlers.
In 1947, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association conducted a contest to create a structure that would commemorate Thomas Jefferson and those settlers’ expansion into western America. Renowned architect Eero Saarinen won the contest with his concept of a stainless steel arch. His vision was completed in 1965 when workers installed the last exterior shell piece of the Gateway Arch.
It cost $13 million to construct the Arch. The foundations extend 60 feet into the ground, and in its entirety, the Arch weighs 17,246 tons, including 900 tons of stainless steel. Built to withstand earthquakes and high winds, the monument may sway up to one inch in a 20 mile-per-hour wind.
Since its completion, other enhancements have been made to the Arch, including the addition of museum exhibits, a Grand Staircase and exterior lighting. Even today, projects to improve the Arch grounds are underway.
Exploring the Arch Grounds
Located just footsteps from where Lewis and Clark completed their journey along the Mississippi River, the 90-acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was designated as a national historic site in 1935. The national park encompasses the Gateway Arch and the surrounding grounds, the Old Courthouse and Luther Ely Square, all bearing unique pieces of history and culture. The St. Louis Riverfront offers other activities including the Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruises, helicopter tours, shopping and casual dining.
Constructing the Arch
Eero Saarinen’s design of the Arch required meticulous attention to detail as a monument of its size, shape and facade had not been built before. When you visit the Arch, you will want to watch the award-winning documentary Monument to the Dream about how the Arch was constructed.
Read more about many milestones achieved during completion of the iconic Gateway Arch here.