On this date in 1965, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, was completed.
The Gateway Arch is the tallest memorial in the United States, the tallest stainless steel monument in the world, Missouri’s tallest accessible building (you can go in it and up to the top), and the world’s tallest arch.
It is 630 feet wide at the base and 630 feet tall at its peak. My mathematics skills, admittedly lacking in today’s world of computer calculators, tells me that something 630 feet wide by 630 feet tall is a square. So why does this look like an arch?
- It was designed in 1947. Construction began on February 12, 1963; it was completed on October 28, 1965; and it opened to the public on June 10, 1967.
- The proposal to build a memorial on the St. Louis riverfront was first suggested in late 1933 during the Great Depression.
- Construction costs were estimated at $30 million, an unbelievable expenditure during the Great Depression, and an estimated 5,000 jobs were to be created for three to four years. Actual construction costs came in at $14 million, but only 100 jobs were created.
- On December 31, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7253 to declare the 82-acre site as the very first National Historic Site. The Order also provided $3.3 million through the Works Progress Administration and another $3.45 million through the Public Works Administration.
- The City of St. Louis acquired the 82 acres through public condemnation rather than purchase.
- A design competition for the memorial was suggested in November 1944, and such a competition opened on May 30, 1947. Submissions were first received on September 1, 1947, and the winner was announced on February 19, 1948.
- Not everyone supported construction of the arch. Many St. Louis residents considered it a “stupendous hairpin” and a “stainless steel hitching post.”
- During the height of the railroad building empire, railroads bought or were given prime property in many cities. Such was the case with St. Louis with railroad tracks passing between the location of the memorial and the riverfront. Ultimately, the tracks of the Missouri Pacific Railroad were relocated 105 feet west and lowered 18 feet below ground.
- Moving the railroad tracks was first suggested in early 1949. It took another ten years before an agreement was reached between the city and the railroad, and funds were made available.
- Construction bids were accepted through January 22, 1962. As seems to always be the case with, the lowest bidder won. Ground was broken in 1959, the foundation was completed in 1961, and construction on the actual arch began in 1963.
- The arch is resistant to earthquakes and is designed to sway up to nine inches in winds up to 150 mph.
- MacDonald Construction Company won the construction bid. Hmmm. MacDonald building a huge McDonald’s arch……………