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Gate­way Arch

Where St. Louis - - EDITOR’S ITINERARY -

Be­fore its re­cent, $380 mil­lion makeover, the Gate­way Arch sat cut off from the rest of down­town St. Louis by sur­face traf­fic lanes and a sunken in­ter­state high­way, and vis­i­tors en­tered the Arch at ei­ther base of its two legs. To­day, af­ter a trans­form­ing over­haul of the grounds and museum, the Arch com­plex is ac­cessed through a sweep­ing glass en­trance that looks west to­ward the Old Court­house (also a part of the Gate­way Arch Na­tional Park, its new name). Past an open atrium, the new Gate­way Arch Museum tells a more com­pli­cated tale than its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion. It re­counts the early Euro­pean pres­ence in the re­gion when a French trad­ing com­pany founded the city in 1764, and of­fers a replica of French colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture con­structed on the spot with pe­riod tools. The city’s fur-trad­ing per­sona is rep­re­sented by the façade of the Old Rock House, one of the build­ings de­mol­ished on the 90-acre site over­look­ing the Mis­sis­sippi River to make way for the Arch grounds. The ex­ploits of Lewis and Clark to open the Amer­i­can West to set­tlers are duly noted, but the museum takes pains to see the west­ward ex­pan­sion of the U.S. through the eyes of Amer­i­can In­di­ans and Mex­i­cans as well, for whom Amer­ica’s “Man­i­fest Destiny” spelled dis­as­ter and loss of ter­ri­tory. The museum’s fi­nal ex­hibit ex­am­ines the 1947 na­tional de­sign com­pe­ti­tion won by Eero Saari­nen (who did not live to see it com­pleted in 1965) and re­in­forces the wis­dom of the com­pe­ti­tion judges. Nat­u­rally, the Arch ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes the Tram Ride to the Top of the 630-foot high mon­u­ment for spec­tac­u­lar views of St. Louis and south­ern Illi­nois, but also fea­tures ex­cur­sions on the Gate­way Arch River­boats and a visit to the Old Court­house. www.gate­wa­yarch.com.

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