Friday, May 24, 2013

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

Here we go again!  Out running around and having fun.  Today, for Stop # 14 on our 2013 Summer Tour, we are in St. Louis, Missouri, exploring the west bank of the Mississippi River.

In February of 1764, Pierre Laclede stood on this very spot and instructed his aide, Auguste Choteau, to build a city.  Today, nearly 250 years later,  the founders would have a hard time recognizing it.

Tourists flock to the same point to admire the view.  They have the possibility of touring the river on a steamboat, getting an overview from a helicopter, or touring the old part of the city by horse carriage.  We chose to walk instead!

One thing the founders might recognize two and a half centuries after establishing that great city is the annual spring flood waters of the Mississippi River.  We have no idea who this statue represents for the name was hidden by high water, but he seems mighty happy to have survived -- again!
We enjoyed walking along the Mighty Mississippi but that's not really what we braved the downtown traffic to see. 

We had come to see the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park.The park, operated by the National Park Service, is located on one of the hills that overlooks the river from its western shore. 
Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States at the time of the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. The purchase included 828,000 square miles of land and the total cost was $15M, about three cents per acre!  Eventually, that expansion became part or all of fifteen states of the United States located west of the Mississippi River.
The centerpiece of the National Park is the Gateway Arch, identifying St. Louis and the Mississippi River as the "Gateway to the West."

The Arch stands 630 feet tall and was designed by noted Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.  Building was begun in February of 1963 and completed four years later at a cost of $13M.  It was opened to the public In June of 1967.  It is the tallest man-made monument in the United States.
Not only is it impressive to look at from a distance, it provides a lovely lawn-like  park between its sprawling legs.  But, underneath the grassy park there's another surprise:
The Museum of Westward Expansion!  In an attractive, circular design it contains exhibits of the presidents and major actions they took to encourage national expansion to the west."  The Great Expedition" made by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark is illustrated in video, art work and excerpts from Lewis' diary of that journey of exploration to the Pacific Ocean.
In our day and age of travel by car, train or plane, museum exhibits reminded us how our ancestors traveled.
on horseback
by covered wagon (the original RV?)
or by stagecoach.
There were also exhibits that reminded us of some of the painful chapters in our national history: the Dred Scott case, the Civil War, Lincoln's assassination, and the "Indian problem:"
the displacement of the Cherokees, the denial of citizenship and voting rights to the Sioux, the extermination of several native tribes.  Several of the great native American heroes are pictured and honored for their wisdom and courage.
We'll never know how our society might have been enriched if we had listened to Tecumseh instead of confining him and his people to reservations, poverty and hopelessness.
What a fun, informative, and exciting afternoon!  I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings!