Lark: After a week stuck in the trailer while Mom and Dad went to the motorcycle races in Springfield, Illinois, we were ready to get out and see something. Anything.
Cory: So, we were excited when we heard we were going to Gateway Arch National Park.
Lark: But it wasn’t much of a National Park. No buffalo. No mountains. Not even any rocks.
Cory: The park used to be called Jefferson Expansion National Monument. The Park Service wanted to change the name to Gateway Arch National Monument.
Lark: Politicians got involved and you know what happened. Lots of exaggeration and misinformation, that’s what.
Cory: When the hearings were all done, the park was renamed Gateway Arch National Park even though that is not what the Park Service asked for.
Lark: Dumb people. Got us all excited for nothing.
Cory: Well, the Arch is pretty amazing. While it took two years to build, the 630-foot stainless steel arch designed by Eero Saarinen took a lot more time than that to be planned. The idea for the park was first talked about in 1933 when Luther Ely Smith, a prominent St. Louis attorney, said that the area of Downtown St. Louis along the Mississippi River looked ugly and dilapidated. After the mayor of St Louis, Bernard Dickman, petitioned the Federal Government, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order creating a memorial to St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States.
Lark: Roosevelt? Like Teddy?
Cory: They were from two different branches of the Roosevelt family tree.
Lark: Trees? I asked about the Roosevelts.
Cory: They were cousins. And Franklin married Teddy’s niece.
Lark: That is way over my head.
Cory: Anyway, the Park Service was given 40 blocks in downtown St. Louis to manage and tore down all the condemned buildings.
Lark: Uh Oh. Mom’s going to be upset to hear that. No Historic Preservation. Ah shucks.
Cory: Some of the buildings were saved like the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott Case was held.
Lark: You lost me again.
Cory: Don’t you know anything about American History? Dred Scott was a slave who went with his master to Illinois and then, claimed he was free because he was in a free state. The court ruled he had to remain a slave and that made a lot of people mad. It was one of the reasons for the Civil War.
Lark: Um. Let’s just keep talking about the Arch. How did we go from dilapidated buildings to the Arch?
Cory: The construction of a monument was delayed until after World War II was over. Then, Smith raised $225,000 for a competition to design a monument that would “transcend in spiritual and aesthetic values” and attract national and international visitors. Out of 172 entries, Eero Saarinen’s design was chosen.
Lark: Eero who?
Cory: A very famous Finnish-American architect. He designed a lot of furniture, too.
Lark: Ho Hum.
Cory: Stay with me. There was another war, the Korean War, so it was not until 1954, that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to build the memorial.
Lark: Who’s Eisenhower? What happened to the Roosevelts?
Cory: A lot of time had gone by. The Roosevelts were dead by then.
Lark: That’s sad.
Cory: It took five more years until a company was hired to build the Arch. The cost was going to be over eleven million dollars! The first stainless steel section was put in place four years later. It took two more years for the arch to be finished.
Lark: And they thought this would be a good idea because? No, don’t tell me.
Cory: Did you know that you can ride up to the top of the Arch?
Lark: No way. They drive cars up there?
Cory: No, it has tracks inside of it with small tram cars that only hold five people. Once you get to the top, there are narrow windows to look out of. They say you can see for thirty miles! They also say that the Arch sways in the wind.
Lark: Nope, not me. No way, no how.
Cory: That’s what Mom says. She did go up in it thirty years ago, but barely looked out the window before she rode back down. She says those tram cars or capsules are about the size of a dryer!
Lark: Mom’s pretty brave. If she didn’t like it, I know I wouldn’t. Speaking of Mom, where did she go while we waited outside with Dad?
Cory: There is a museum underneath the Arch. Mom saw it the last time she was there, but she heard that it was completely redone last year. She wanted to see the changes. She says it is much more culturally diverse now and tells the story of westward expansion from a variety of viewpoints.
Cory: We walked all around the outside of the Arch and courthouse. There are some hiking trails around the monument past a cathedral and down to the Mississippi River.
Lark: The Mighty Mississippi. Good thing we walked across it in Minnesota. We wouldn’t be walking across it in St. Louis unless they lined up all those barges and boats. It didn’t look as clear and pretty either.
Cory: All in all, our visit to the Gateway Arch was interesting. Ground level is dog friendly. There were a lot of other dogs there and lots of grassy places to sit and look at the Arch or watch the boats on the river.
Lark: But no poop bag stations. Be sure and take your own poop bags. Plus, they were out of Bark Ranger badges! Good thing. I’ve got my hands full with Indiana Dunes.
Cory: Yes, just remember, this is unlike any of the other National Parks. But, still worth a day trip.