St. Louis Arch

Key Facts About the Gateway Arch

St. Louis, Missouri is the site of the Gateway Arch, commonly called the St. Louis Arch. The Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. The design for the Arch was determined during a nationwide competition held between 1947-48. Eero Saarinen's design was chosen for a 630-foot stainless steel arch. The foundation of the structure was laid in 1961 but​ the construction of the arch itself began in 1963. It was completed on October 28, 1965, for a total cost of less than $15 million.

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St Louis Arch
Jeremy Woodhouse

The St. Louis Arch is located on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. It is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial which also includes the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was decided.

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Construction of the St. Louis Arch

The St. Louis Arch Construction
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The Arch stands 630 feet tall and is made out of stainless steel with foundations that run 60-foot deep. Construction began on February 12, 1963, and was finished on October 28, 1965. The Arch opened to the public on July 24, 1967, with one tram running. The Arch can withstand high winds and earthquakes. It was designed to sway in the wind and about one inch in a 20 mph wind. It can sway up to 18 inches in 150 mile per hour winds.

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Gateway to the West

The arch was chosen as a symbol of the Gateway of the West. At the time when westward exploration was in full swing, St. Louis was a key starting location due to its size and position. The Arch was designed as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States.

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Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

The arch is one part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, named after President Thomas Jefferson. The Park was established in 1935 to celebrate the role of Thomas Jefferson and other explorers and politicians responsible for the expansion of the United States to the Pacific Ocean. The park includes the Gateway Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion located underneath the Arch, and the Old Courthouse.

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Museum of Westward Expansion

Below the Arch is the Museum of Westward Expansion which is the size of approximately a football field. In the museum, you can see exhibits related to Native Americans and Westward Expansion. It's a great place to explore while waiting for your ride up in the arch.

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Incidents With the Arch

The St. Louis Arch has been the site of a few incidents and stunts where parachutists have attempted to land on the arch. However, this is illegal. One man in 1980, Kenneth Swyers, attempted to land on the Arch and then base jump off of it. However, the wind knocked him off and he fell to his death. In 1992, John C. Vincent climbed up the Arch with suction cups and then successfully parachuted off of it. However, he was later caught and charged with two misdemeanors.

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Visiting the Arch

When you visit the Arch, you can visit the Museum of Westward Expansion in the building at the base of the monument. A ticket will get you a ride to the observation deck on top inside of a small tram that journeys slowly up the leg of the structure. Summer is a very busy time of year, so it's a good idea to book your travel tickets in advance as they are timed. If you do arrive without tickets, you can buy them at the base of the Arch. The Old Courthouse is close to the Arch and can be visited or free.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "St. Louis Arch." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Kelly, Martin. (2021, February 16). St. Louis Arch. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "St. Louis Arch." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).