The Gateway Arch: A Monument of Innovation and Pride

Video where is this building known for its many arches

October 28, 1965, marked a historic moment in the heartland of America. The final stone of the Gateway Arch was placed, signifying the completion of a 630-foot tall symbol that has overlooked downtown St. Louis for the past 56 years. This architectural marvel stands as a testament to the determination, innovation, and pride of the people who brought it to life.

A Vision Takes Shape

The story of the Gateway Arch begins with Luther Ely Smith, a visionary lawyer who envisioned a grand memorial honoring Thomas Jefferson and the westward expansion of the United States. After years of relentless effort, Smith secured funding for the project and gained approval from community and government leaders. On December 21, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

In 1947, an architectural competition was held to determine the design of the memorial. The winning design was submitted by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, whose audacious vision captivated the world. Sadly, Saarinen passed away before witnessing his creation take form.

The Triumph of Construction

From 1963 to 1965, the Gateway Arch began to take shape. In an era preceding strict safety regulations, workers fearlessly scaled great heights without harnesses. Miraculously, no lives were lost, and no major injuries occurred during the construction process.

The Arch’s construction occurred during a time of immense societal change in America. Even as this space-age monument rose, discrimination persisted in the building trades. In 1964, civil rights activist Percy Green scaled the partially-completed Arch, sparking a protest against unfair hiring practices. His actions paved the way for the federal government to enforce equal employment opportunities nationwide.

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A Symbol of Heritage and Achievement

On October 28, 1965, the final piece was triumphantly put into place. The Gateway Arch became an enduring symbol of our nation’s heritage and a testament to innovation, determination, and pride. Recognized worldwide, it stands as an icon of St. Louis.

To honor the builders who brought the Arch to life, the National Park Service hosts an annual Meet the Builders reunion. This year, on October 23 and 28, visitors have the unique opportunity to meet the engineers, tradesmen, and support staff who contributed to the construction of this monumental structure. These builders will share their memories, showcase personal memorabilia and photographs, and sign autographs. The event is open to the public and will take place in the Arch’s tram lobby from 10:00 a.m. to noon on both days. Commemorative posters will also be available for autographing at the Arch Store, located in the tram lobby.

Celebrating the Anniversary

While visiting the Gateway Arch, there are several ways to celebrate its 56th anniversary. Take a Tram Ride to the Top and witness the breathtaking views of downtown St. Louis and the majestic Mississippi River from a height of 630 feet. Step into the shoes of the builders as you gaze out the windows, capturing a glimpse of the bustling city and the currents of the Mighty Mississippi below. Tickets for the Tram Ride to the Top can be purchased online through the Arch’s webstore.

Before or after meeting the builders, immerse yourself in the award-winning documentary movie, “Monument to the Dream.” This captivating film chronicles the construction of the Arch and is screened daily in the Tucker Theater. Discover the inspiration behind Saarinen’s timeless design and witness the remarkable determination of the builders as they assemble this architectural masterpiece. Movie tickets can be purchased online through the Arch’s webstore.

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Lastly, don’t forget to visit The Arch Store, located on the lower level of the facility. Here, you can find a wide selection of Arch apparel, souvenirs, and other unique gifts. On October 23 and 28, the store will be offering special pricing on select Arch- and construction-related items.

Join in the celebration of the Gateway Arch’s 56th anniversary and be a part of history. This iconic monument stands as a testament to the human spirit and the power of vision and innovation. Come and experience the Gateway Arch, a true marvel of American ingenuity.

Photo credit: NPS/Arteaga

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