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The Gateway Arch, the most prominent architectural landmark in St.Louis, Missouri, is the largest structure in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Arch is not only the tallest habitable structure in St. Louis, but is also the worldâ€™s tallest monument. This architectural marvel, 630 feet (192 m) tall and 630 ft (192 m) wide at its base, was designed by the renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel. The walls of the Arch comprise of a stainless steel skin casing reinforced concrete from the ground level to 300 ft (91.44 m), with rebar and carbon steel from 300 feet (90 m) to the peak.
The hollow interior of the Gateway Arch serves as a unique transport system that directs the visitors to an observation deck at the top. It also features two stairwells of 1076 steps each for an emergency exit in the event of a need to evacuate the Arch. Visitors are required to pass through the security checkpoints at each entrance of the Arch. The unique tram system of the Gateway Arch features an elevator cable lift system combined with gimbaled cars, which resemble the Ferris-Wheel gondolas to a great extent. At present, the tram is operated by the quasi-governmental Bi-State Development Agency.
The displays in the north queue area elucidate the design and construction of the Gateway Arch, while the exhibits put on display in the south queue area shed light on the mid-19th century St. Louis riverfront. Both the trains have 8 compartments each; each egg-shaped compartment contains five seats and a flat floor. Thus, a total of 80 passengers are transported to the observation deck at a time. The exciting trip to the top of the Arch takes nearly 4 minutes, and the trip back down lasts for three minutes. The passengers can see the interior stairways and the structure of the Arch through the narrow glass panes of the car doors. The riders finally exit the compartments near the top of the arch, where they climb a slight grade and enter the arched observation area. The small windows of the observation deck offer breathtaking views across the Mississippi River and Southern Illinois, and the city of Saint Louis.
The Visitor Center is situated underneath the Arch and can be accessed from a descending outdoor ramp beginning at either base of the Arch. The Museum of Westward Expansion, the tram loading and unloading areas, and the exhibits on the history of the St.Louis Riverfront are located within the Visitor Center. Also situated in the center are the Tucker Theater, which features a documentary on the construction of the Gateway Arch; the Odyssey Theater; and the retail operations run by the Jefferson National Parks Association. The Gateway Arch is an architectural wonder and is definitely worth visiting.
- Address: 11 N 4th Street,
St. Louis, MO 63102
- Telephone: (314) 655-1700
- Hours: Open daily from 8 AM to 10 PM, Memorial Day through Labor Day (summer hours), and 9 AM to 6 PM the remainder of the year (winter hours); closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
- Website: www.nps.gov/jeff/arch.html