The Gateway Arch is known world-wide as the symbol of the city of St. Louis. It was created as a monument to westward expansion, and is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. For St. Louisians, it is a symbol of home, there to greet you each time you return to the city after being away. It is very well-known and millions can claim to have visited it for the last nearly 50 years. Here are some things you may not know.
1. It is the world's tallest arch.
The arch stands 630 feet tall which also makes it the tallest man-made monument in the United States and Missouri’s tallest accessible building.
2. The arch is just as wide as it is tall.
The arch is 630 feet wide at the base. It is a weighted catenary, which means its legs are wider than its upper section.
3. Although the location was chosen for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as early as 1935, the arch was not completed until 1965.
The St. Louis Riverfront was chosen for a national monument in honor of the westward expansion of the United States in 1935. As many as 40 city blocks were cleared, but the progression of the project stopped due to World War 2.
4. The arch was purposely placed at the site of St. Louis' original founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
Near where the south leg now sits, a man named Pierre Laclede used an ax to mark a tree in 1763. This established the site of a French fur trading post that eventually became a French colonial town that is now the city of St. Louis.
5. The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947.
He won the honor through a national architectural competition for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. His motivation was to honor Thomas Jefferson, but to also create a structure “which would have lasting significance and would be a landmark of our time.”
6. Construction finally began on February 12, 1963, and was completed on October 28, 1965.
Sadly, Eero Saarinen was never able to see his vision come to life. He died in 1961 of a brain tumor at the age of 51.
7. The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967.
8. To climb to the top of the arch by foot, you would have to take 1,076 steps. By comparison, the Washington Monument has 897, and The Willis Tower in Chicago has 2,109 steps.
These steps are not accessible to the public, however. They are only used in case of emergency and for maintenance reasons.
9. The deceptively small observation deck at the arch’s top can actually hold up to 160 people.
The observation deck measures 65 feet long, 7 feet 2 inches across, and 6 feet 9 inches high. Although its capacity is 160 people, a full deck would in reality be very crowded and uncomfortable.
10. There are 16 windows on each side of the observation area.
Made out of ¾ inch plate glass, each hinged and locked window measures 7 inches by 27 inches. When the sky is clear, visitors can see 30 miles. From the east side windows visitors can view the Mississippi River and the state of Illinois, and from the west side windows you have a great view of the city of St. Louis.
11. The Gateway Arch weighs 43,220 pounds, and was designed with an allowance of an 18-inch sway and to withstand an earthquake.
However, under normal weather conditions, the arch will not sway. The top of the arch won’t sway until the wind blows about 50 miles per hour, and then it would only move 1 ½ inches from the center.
12. There are six 1/2 by 20 inch lightning rods plus an aircraft light on the top of the arch.
13. The cost to build the arch totaled 13 million dollars.
14. The tram system that Dick Bowser created to carry visitors to the top of the arch was developed in just two weeks.
There is a tram with 8 capsules on each leg of the arch. Each capsule holds 5 passengers. It takes approximately 4 minutes to get up to the to of the arch at a speed of 340 feet per minute.
15. The arch has been bathed in white light between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. via a system of floodlights since November of 2001.
Designed by Randy Burkett, It comprises 44 lighting fixtures situated in four pits just below ground level.
16. The arch has been illuminated in pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On October 5, 2004, the U.S. Senate approved a bill permitting the illumination of the arch in pink in honor of breast cancer awareness month, and on October 25, the plan was carried out.
17. Graffiti is scratched on the lower five to seven feet of the monument.
18. The arch was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1987, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Did you learn something new? Have you been up in the arch? What was your experience? We would love to hear from you.