A Gateway to Missouri's Top Wonder

1 decade 2 years 3 weeks ago Monday, July 24 2006 Jul 24, 2006 Monday, July 24, 2006 7:04:56 PM CDT July 24, 2006 in News

The Arch, a symbol of a nation on the move, started with a contest. Influential St. Louisians raised $40,000 to pay for the design that best captured the spirit of the city. When it was done, the Arch provided a breath-taking sight for miles around. But, it's also a matter of pride and wonder for Missourians and other visitors: a fluid structure with a modern, timeless design.

"If St. Louis is known as the Gateway City, and it's a gateway through which people pass to go west, then the Arch would be a fitting symbol for that gateway," added Moore.

A Finnish-born architect, Eero Saarinen, took the top prize.

"His idea, a really big idea, was a 630-foot, stainless steel arch," Moore explained.

Saarinen wanted the Arch to be a place to envision the majesty of the West. So, he worked with an elevator engineer to devise a way for people to get to the top to take it all in. They figured out how to squeeze 5 people into each of 8 capsules.

"We have that great ride that Saarinen called the Skyride," Moore said. "We call it the tram that actually takes people to the top of the Arch."

The ride up takes about 5 minutes, as each capsule rotates to keep riders on an even keel.

"We couldn't miss the Arch," said Angela Ramirez of Boston.

The Ramirez family said the Arch was a must-see on their cross-country road trip.

"It just looks amazingly big. We weren't expecting to be so overwhelmed," she admitted.

On a clear day, you can see about 30 miles in all directions.

"It's awesome!" Ramirez exclaimed. "It's a great view. We thought it was going to be a cloudy day, but it turned out to be a great day."

Construction on the Arch began in 1961.

"It was really a huge task to build the Gateway Arch because it was not like anything that had been built at the time," Moore explained, "and nothing like it has been built since."

It was, and is, an engineering wonder.

"That's the difference between the Gateway Arch and other tall structures, there's no framework, no girders to hold it up," Moore said. "It's just the stainless steel on the outside and the carbon steel on the inside."

It was big news when the two legs of the arch finally met in the middle on Oct. 28, 1965, although Saarinen didn't live to see it . He died 4 years earlier.

"Most people that see it for the first time are just astounded by the sheer size of it," said Moore, "and then most people think it's really beautiful."

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