Gateway arch in Missouri | World’s tallest arch

Visiting Detail

  • Location: 100 Washington Avenue St. Louis, Missouri, 63102, U.S.
  • Type: Monument
  • Cost: $82.1 million in 2019
  • Architect: Eero Saarinen
  • Architectural Style: Structural expressionism
  • Year of Construction: October 28, 196
  • Height: 630 ft (192 m)

Arched gateway

The Gateway arch in Missouri is a 630-foot (192 m) monument which is located in St. Louis, United States. It is clad with stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch. It is the world’s tallest arch, or the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere which is Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, officially dedicated to “the American people”.

The Arch, commonly referred to as “The Gateway to the West” is the centerpiece of Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri. It has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis as well as a popular tourist destination.

The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947. The construction started on February 12, 1963 which was completed on October 28, 1965. It costed an overall cost of $13 million (which is equivalent to $82.1 million in 2018). The monument opened for the public on June 10, 1967. It is located at the site of St. Louis’s founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

Bidding on the Gateway Arch

The original bidding date was December 20, 1961 but it was postponed to January 22, 1962 to clarify the details of the construction of the arch. About 50 companies that had requested the construction requirements received bidding invitations. Finally, Wirth had a committee led by George Hartzog determine the validity of the bids in light of the government’s conditions. Following a meeting with the bidders, the Wirth’s committee affirmed the bids’ reasonableness, and he was awarded the lowest bidder, MacDonald Construction Co. of St. Louis, the contract for the construction of the arch and the visitor center.

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Wirth signed the contract and received from Tucker $2.5 million, the city’s subsidy for the phase on March 14, 1962. MacDonald reduced its bid $500,000 to $11,442,418. The Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company got the opportunity to serve as the subcontractor for the shell of the arch.

Construction of the Gateway Arch

In 1959 and 1960, the ground was broken and in 1961, the structure of the arch was founded. Construction of the arch started on February 12, 1963 as the first steel triangle on the south leg. A group of cranes and derricks raised these steel triangles which narrowed as they spiraled to the top. The arch was assembled of 142 12-foot-long (3.7 m) prefabricated stainless steel sections. Once in place, each section had its double-walled skin filled with concrete, prestressed with 252 tension bars. In order to keep the partially completed legs steady, a scissors truss was placed between them at 530 feet (160 m) which was later removed as the derricks were taken down. The whole endeavor was expected to be completed by fall 1964, in observance of St. Louis’s bicentennial.

Contractor MacDonald Construction Company arranged a 30-foot (9.1 m) tower for spectators and provided recorded accounts of the undertaking. In 1963, a million people observed the progress. In 1964, local radio stations started  broadcasting when large slabs of steel were about to raise into place. 

Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Art Witman had also provided a long document on  the construction. He used to visit the construction site frequently from 1963 to 1967 in order to record every stage of the progress. With assistant Renyold Ferguson, he crawled along the catwalks with the construction workers up to 190m above the ground. He was the only news photographer on permanent assignment at the construction with complete access. He primarily worked with slide film but also used the only Panox camera in St. Louis to create panoramic photographs covering 140 degrees. Witman’s pictures of the construction are now available in the State Historical Society of Missouri.

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Once, Stan Wolf, the project manager of MacDonald Construction Co. had said that a 62-story building was easier to build in comparison to the arch: “In a building, everything is straight up, one thing on top of another. In this arch, everything is curved.”

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