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Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Courtesy NPS
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is located in Saint Louis, Missouri near the start of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and commemorates the Louisiana Purchase and settlement of the American West. It was designated as a national memorial on December 20,1935, and is maintained by the National Park Service.

The memorial site consists of a 90-acre park along the Mississippi River on the site of the original city of St. Louis; the Old Courthouse, a former state and federal courthouse which saw the origins of the Dred Scott case; the Museum of Westward Expansion; and the Gateway Arch, a steel catenary arch that has become the city's emblem.

The Gateway Arch

In 1947, a group of civic leaders held a national competition to select a design for the main portion of the Memorial space. A young Finnish-American architect named Eero Saarinen won this competition with plans for a 590-foot catenary arch to be placed on the banks of the Mississippi. However, these plans were modified over the next 15 years, placing the arch on higher ground and adding 40 feet in height and width.

The construction of the Arch began February 12, 1963 and was completed on October 28, 1965, costing less than $15 million to build. US Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall dedicated the Arch on May 25, 1966.

The Arch stands 630 feet (192 meters) tall, and is 630 feet (192 meters) at its widest point; by ordinance it is the tallest structure in the city. Its legs are equilateral triangles, narrowing from 54 feet (16.46 meters) at the base to 17 feet (5.18 meters) at the top. Each wall consists of a stainless steel skin covering reinforced concrete (from ground level to 300 feet) or carbon steel and rebar (from 300 feet to the peak). The interior of the Arch is hollow and contains a unique transport system leading to an observation deck at the top.

Underneath the Arch is a visitor's center, containing the Museum of Westward Expansion, exhibits on the history of the St. Louis riverfront, tram loading areas, a movie theater showing a documentary on the Arch's construction, and a movie theater with a rotating playlist.

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