Gateway Arch Celebrates 50th Anniversary
(ST. LOUIS) October 28, 2015 – The National Park Service today marked the 50th anniversary of the completion of Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel masterpiece, which defines the St. Louis skyline and honors the westward expansion of the United States. Several celebratory events, including a commemoration ceremony with regional officials and the annual “Meet the Builders,” marked the day that the final piece of the Arch was lifted into place in 1965.
“The National Park Service cares for many of our nation’s most extraordinary places, and today we shine a golden spotlight on the Gateway Arch” said Tom Bradley, Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. “This monument means many things to many different people – a symbol of innovation, expansion, resilience and high-reaching hopes. Whichever you choose, it is a wonder of the past century and serves as an aspirational invitation to the next generation.”
The National Park Service marked the anniversary with a commemoration ceremony featuring: remarks from Bradley; proclamations from Brian May, Eastern Missouri Regional Director for the Office of the Governor, and Mayor Francis Slay; a flag-raising event with local Boy and Girl Scouts, Manchester Elks Lodge 2058 and three grown Scouts who were part of the topping-out flag-raising event in 1965; a ceremonious bell ringing led by the St. Louis Fire Department; live music from the Airlifter Brass Quintet of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America at Scott Air Force Base; and recognition of the park’s partner dignitaries. Free 50th anniversary-themed cupcakes from Destination Desserts and Sarah’s Cake Shop were distributed to the public after the ceremony.
“Meet the Builders of the Gateway Arch,” sponsored by Jefferson National Park Association, was held at the Missouri History Museum. A panel discussion featuring Arch Historian Bob Moore, Susan Saarinen (landscape architect and daughter of Eero Saarinen), Christine Smith (granddaughter of Luther Ely Smith), and Ken Kolkmeier (a project manager for the construction of the Arch) was also held at the museum.
The Gateway Arch’s journey began when St. Louis civic leader Luther Ely Smith conceived the idea of building a memorial on the Mississippi riverfront to help revive the area and memorialize the story of the nation’s westward expansion. Through a nationwide design competition conducted in the late 1940s, Saarinen’s stainless steel Arch was chosen as the memorial that would celebrate the accomplishments of early pioneers. St. Louis celebrated with a groundbreaking on June 23, 1959.
Throughout the next few years, Saarinen perfected his design and workers began excavating the grounds in 1961. The Gateway Arch was completed on October 28, 1965. The north and south trams opened in 1967 and 1968, respectively.
Since 1965, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has welcomed more than 130 million recreational visitors. Approximately 900,000 visitors travel to the top annually. At 630 feet tall, it is the tallest monument in the United States.