Monday, May 9, 2011

The Arch

We stayed at the Elks Lodge in Oakville so we could visit St. Louis and see the arch. This is a great stop at only $5.00 a night but the power is 15 amp so in the summer if you need AC it may not be so great. Our goal was to visit Jefferson National Expansion Memorial that includes the old courthouse, a museum and, of course, the arch.

The first day we visited downtown it was overcast and a little rainy so we opted to tour the old courthouse. The courthouse was the site of the Dred Scott case in 1846. Scott, a slave, had lived for a time with his owner in Illinois, a free state, were he should have been able to gain his freedom. When he was moved back to Missouri he sued for his freedom based on the precedent that having lived in a free state gave him his right to freedom. The case finally made it to the US Supreme Court that ruled in 1856 that slaves were property and had no rights as citizens so Scott could not sue for his freedom. The ruling also ended the prohibition on slavery in the territories and prohibited Congress from regulating slavery anywhere. Scott was emancipated by his original owners following the decision. This decision lead to the rise of the Republican party, the election of Lincoln and the Civil War.

The building is architecturally interesting and has a display of St. Louis history from the first French settlers to the present.

In 1965 while on a cross country trip with my grandparents I saw the arch before the two legs were joined. Since then I have wanted to return and take the tram to the top. The idea for a monument to honor St. Louis as the Gateway to the West went back to the 1930's. The arch was designed in 1947 and construction began in 1963. It is a great engineering feat and a must see is the movie about the construction and the problems they overcame.

At 630 feet the arch is the tallest structure in the park service. This relief compares the height of other natural and man made sites to the arch and honors those that designed and built it. Nanc tells me the name of the architect, Eero Saarinen, is often in crossword puzzles.

Looking down from the top at the Mississippi. The water here was receding a little during the couple of days we saw it. The road to the right of the shadow was under water on our first visit.

Here we are at the top. This ride is not for the claustrophobic as the tram cars are very tight. Each holds five people and the entrance is only five feet high. The tram is part cable car, part elevator and part Ferris wheel. If it breaks down there is a 1076 step stairway in each leg that can be used to get down.

At the top the curve of the arch is very evident. That is Nanc from the knees up off in the distance. There are 16 small windows on each side of the observation area.

There is a great view of the Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois from the top.

Under the arch is a museum that tells the story of Westward Expansion with the exhibits arranged by decade telling what occurred throughout the US as states were added through the century. It starts with the exploration of the Louisiana Purchase by the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery and other explorers. It then shows how the West was settled to the point where, by the end of the 1800's, the census bureau declared there was no more frontier left in the continental United States. It also tells what happened to the Indian culture because of this expansion. The exhibits covered many of the same events we have seen on our recent travels from the cowboy culture and cattle drives to the trails followed by pioneers heading West.

Some of the animals that were important during Western Expansion. This is a great stop and the ride to the top of the arch is wonderful.


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Great images and a great post, can you walkup the atairway?

PalmsRV said...

If you have the time and like Gardens the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St Louis are fantastic.

greg and jean said...

but what about Budweiser ??? lol

Jim and Bobbie said...

Great post, Jim. Very interesting and well presented. Good job. I learned alot.