The arch was topped out on October 28, 1965, as Vice President Hubert Humphrey observed from a helicopter.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is the nation’s tallest monument and the tallest stainless-steel monument in the world. It is 43,000 tons of concrete and steel standing at a majestic 630 feet. The observation deck can sway up to an inch in a 20-mph wind. Earthquake resistant, the arch is designed to sway up to 18 inches either way in winds up to 150 miles per hour. Visitors can enjoy east and west views up to 30 miles away.
The idea for a monument was conceived in 1933 by Luther Ely Smith, but it took 30-years-worth of hoops to jump through before construction could begin. Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947, MacDonald Construction Co. of St. Louis secured the bid and construction began on February 12, 1963. An actuarial firm predicted thirteen workers would be killed during construction, but none were. A time capsule was welded into the keystone before the final piece was set in place. It contained the signatures of 762,000 students and others. The arch was topped out on October 28, 1965, as Vice President Hubert Humphrey observed from a helicopter. A Catholic priest and rabbi prayed over the keystone.
The visitor center opened a few months later on June 10, 1967, and the tram started taking people to the top on July 24. The Arch was dedicated the following year on May 25, 1968, by Vice President Humphrey. Over 250,000 people were expected to attend the dedication, but rain forced the event indoors.
The museum traces over 200 years of the history of Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America. Galleries span from 1764 to 1965 and covers such topics as Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s Vision, and Manifest Destiny.
While the project was expected to create 5,000 jobs, the number was actually fewer than 100. The project did, however, spark other riverfront restoration projects totaling $150 million: a 50,000-seat sports stadium, a 30-story hotel, several office towers, four parking garages, and an apartment complex. A Disneyland amusement park had been considered, but that idea was abandoned.
Millions of people have enjoyed the view from the observation deck, and even more have visited the Arch without taking in its magnificent view. The one-millionth visitor to reach the observation deck did so on January 15, 1969, and was from Nashville, Tennessee.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News for over ten years. She has covered the Civil War, US history, and Cooper County history.