The Saint Louis Arch

Children in Saint Louis have the word arch in their vocabulary, at an unsually early age …

We took Rey to see the Arch on Sunday.  The Rams versus Colts game was just getting underway when we arrived downtown.  Consequently, the Arch’s garage was charging $10 event parking.  I eschewed that option and we parked down on the levee for only $4.  The levee is paved with cobblestones.  Anne recounted a story of an office Christmas party, years ago, that was held on one of the riverboats.  She recounted her difficulty in trying to navigate these stones, while wearing heels and in the dark. The river was surprisingly high on Sunday, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.  We walked up the front steps from the river to the Arch.

I guess that this was the first time that I have actually gone inside the Arch since 9/11.  This time they had X-ray scanners and a metal detecting booth just like at the airport.  Saturday was the forty-fourth anniversary of the Arch, but on Sunday things were pretty quiet.  We got our tickets and were immediately assigned a tram car for our ride to the top of the Arch.  

The tram cars are little egg shaped capsules that seat five.  This one-part elevator and one-part amusement park ride alleviates the need to climb the 630’ via the 1,000 plus stairs that now serve solely as an emergency exit.  There was another couple in our car as we rode up to the top.  I think that the guy was feeling a little claustrophobic.  I know Rey was feeling cramped.  As you near your destination, where the Arch curves the most, the tram cars rotate increasingly more frequently to keep its occupants sitting level.  If you are already nervous, it is an unnerving event.

The top of the Arch is a single room that can’t help but convey the inverted triangular shape of the exterior.  Each side of the room is lined with small rectangular windows.  On the west side lays Saint Louis.  On the east side is the Mississippi and then Illinois.  I’ve been up in the Arch when there was a stiff wind and you could feel the Arch swaying.  Sunday though was not such a day.  Eventually, we saw enough and took all the pictures we wanted to and rode down the other leg of the Arch.  In this tram ride we had the car all to ourselves.  Rey got to stretch out.

We killed the time in between the tram ride and the movie with a tour through the museum that lies underground beneath the Arch.  The Arch is a national monument.  It is officially known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.  It commemorates the westward expansion of our country that occurred throughout the ninetieth century.  It was situated in Saint Louis because of Saint Louis’ pivotal role as the Gateway to the West.  Rey (naturally) found a new exhibit that describes Saint Louis’ contribution to the westward expansion of baseball.

The movie that we watched was, A Monument to a Dream.  It is a short twenty-minute documentary film about the making of the Arch.  In 1967 it was nominated for an Academy Award.  Anne and I have seen it many times and we still love it.

We next adjourned from the Arch to neighboring Laclede’s landing for lunch.  Once a warehouse district, it is now populated with restaurants and bars.  We were seated and had placed our order before the waves of football fans began to arrive.  Walking back to the car along the levee, we noticed that the water had risen further.  So it was with some relief that we found the car still high and dry.  All that was left was for us to slog home through football traffic.

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