Okay, so ever since my recent post on the Sydney Opera House, I’ve had St. Louis’ Gateway Arch on my mind. The Eero Saarinen link aside, in many ways the Arch is to St. Louis what the Opera House is to Sydney: an elegant, soaring, and instantly recognizable symbol of a city.
As symbols go, the Arch is a pretty important one. It symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States; our desire to push west and become a nation from sea to shining sea. St. Louis played an important part in the nation’s journey west: the Lewis & Clark Expedition departed from there, as did many other explorers and settlers on their way to Manifest Destiny.
Built in 1965, the Arch stands as the tallest man-made monument in the U.S., and cements St. Louis’ reputation as the Gateway to the West. Inside you’ll find a couple of small elevators that take visitors all the way to the top for great views of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and Illinois to the east. The Arch is just one part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which also includes the Old Courthouse and the Museum of Westward Expansion.
My favorite story about the Arch belongs to my Mom. She was in high school during the Arch’s construction, and made plans with her friends to skip school the day the last piece was to be put in. Being somewhat of a goody-goody, she told Grandma of her plans, and Grandma was more than happy to let her skip a day of school to watch a little piece of history be put into place. Mom’s friends, however, weren’t so lucky. They didn’t tell anyone of their plans and were all promptly grounded once their mothers caught a glimpse of the group that night on the evening news.
The Arch symbolizes a lot for the city of St. Louis, and for the United States, but for me it simply symbolizes home. When I’m lucky, I can catch a glimpse of it from my seat on a plane making its descent into Lambert, or from a different seat on a different plane making its ascent to parts unknown. Either way, I love the Arch for being a different kind of gateway: a gateway to family, friends, and the place that, no matter where I live, will always be ‘home’.