HISTORIC FEATS: St. Louis’ Gateway Arch

The modern world didn’t just happen. It was built. Built by men and women who understood the value of hard work and overcoming the impossible to accomplish Historic Feats. Those are our kind of people. To celebrate them and their accomplishments, OXX is taking a closer look at some of the greatest feats of human ingenuity that America has ever seen. 

The love of adventure and the unknown is part of the American spirit. It’s in our blood. Thanks to Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana territory, our ancestors had the opportunity to explore the world beyond the Mississippi River, resulting in a mass migration westward. At the heart of the travel west was St. Louis, Missouri. The city served as a gateway for the men and women who were headed to the plains. In the 1940s, as the city looked to memorialize its role in the Westward Expansion shoreline along the Mississippi River was cleared. On the site would be the St. Louis’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park. Thanks to the design of Eero Saarinen, the city now had the vision of a stainless steel monument towering above the St. Louis skyline: The Gateway Arch.

 

 

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It’s the tallest monument in the U.S. and the tallest arch in the world.

At 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch is the tallest national monument in the country and the tallest arch in the world. Its arch shape is created by equilateral triangles made of steel that were stacked onto each other, becoming smaller and smaller as it approached the top. The triangles-construction allowed the inside of the arch to remain hollow, which helped with the weight of the structure, but also allowing a tram system to be installed. It took 142 sections of steel triangles to complete the structure.

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of St. Louis Today
Photo Courtesy of St. Louis Today

Nobody died during construction. 

The enormity of the project did bring up a number of safety concerns. Some stages of the project were even delayed due to different safety checks and fixes. But many expected that a project of such a scale would have a human cost: how many men would be lost building such a monument? To the surprise of many, no one died while working on the Gateway Arch.

 

 

 

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Photo Courtesy of KSDK

It’s notorious for attracting stuntmen.  

Something about the Arch was just too attractive. For pilots and stuntmen, the Arch offered up a challenge. Pilots wanted to fly through the arches, but the Federal Aviation Administration promised swift punishment in the form of revoking a pilot’s license and hefty fines. Regardless, 10 or more pilots have flown through. As for stuntmen, a number men and women have jumped from planes to parachute down between the arches. But in the case of John Vincent, no airplane jump was needed to get to the top. Vincent instead used suction cups on his feet and hands to scale the Arch. After taking a 75-minute rest at the top of the tower to take pictures (a selfie or two perhaps?) and to rest, he parachuted to the ground to a waiting get-away car. Eventually, the police caught up with Vincent, and he was slapped with a fine. The picture above was one of the pictures he was able to snap.

 

Stuntmen aside, the Gateway Arch was a combination of celebrating the old and designing for the new. This national monument serves as a powerful reminder of the amazing men and women who took on the west with a spirit of adventure, respect for hard work, and love of freedom.