It’s overwhelming to me the number of tourists that are drawn to visit cities based on uninhabitable structures that have become icons synonymous with the city’s name, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and of course the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Sometimes I think it’s a little silly. And then sometimes I wonder where I come up with these notions. I have never had a desire to visit St. Louis or the Arch. I guess I didn’t really pay attention to any photos and knew little about it, but I thought the Arch was an ugly, random sculpture that one could bungee jump off of. And, for the record, you cannot bungee jump off the Arch so I really have no idea where I came up with that one.
The Gateway Arch is part of the National Park Service’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West for Westward Expansion, to the pioneers of the time, and to Dred Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom in a landmark case in the Old Courthouse that is photographed above. It is 630 feet tall and is the largest man-made monument in the United States. Underground, between the two ends of the Arch, is the Museum of Westward Expansion and also where you go to board the tram that will take you to the top of the Arch.
As soon as I got my first glimpse of the imposing monument that sits along the Mississippi River, I knew my former opinion was quite wrong. It was striking as the sunlight danced across its metallic skin, and I couldn’t stop photographing it from different angles. The modern and sleek appearance of the Arch is countered by its delicate, tapered figure, and I wondered how it was engineered to withstand the wind. Quite frankly, I was in awe. Of course it should be of no surprise once I found out that the mastermind behind the Gateway Arch was architect Eero Saarinen, who was also a talented furniture designer of the 20th century.
After photographing it on our approach, we went down the steps under the Arch to buy our ticket for the tram. We toured the Museum which was full of useless trivia, like where the term Uncle Sam was coined (FYI in 1812, Samuel Wilson, a meat-packer in Troy, New York, is called “Uncle Sam” to distinguish him from a younger Samuel Wilson from the same town. Soldiers begin to call Wilson’s meat “Uncle Sam’s” because of the stamp “U.S.” on provision boxes).
The tram to get up to the arch consistes of these tiny, white, claustrophobic pods. Pops demonstrates below how you must hunch over in your seat for the quick ride to the top. It has five seats in each little pod and you must get cozy with your neighbors because playing footsie is unavoidable. (Here’s a video to show the size inside.)
Once at the top, there are views of the Mississippi River, the Cardinals Stadium, and the Old Courthouse. I loved the shadow cast by the Arch on the city below.
After our trip to the top of the Arch, we planned to headed over to see the Old Courthouse, but had to stop to take photos in the beautiful park neighboring the Arch.
Have you ever visited the St. Louis Arch? Did you find it equally as impressive?