On this day in 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey dedicated the nation’s tallest monument, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The arch, soaring 630 feet above the banks of the Mississippi River, is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which honors Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, and the pioneers who settled the West.
The gleaming stainless-steel arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel. It stands 75 feet taller than the Washington Monument and more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965, though the structure’s tram system wasn’t fully installed until 1968.
In each leg, visitors can board a tram made of eight five-passenger capsules for a fourminute ride to the top. There, windows give views of the Mississippi River to the east and St. Louis to the west.
St. Louis, which started as a French fur trading post in 1764, became part of the United States in 1803 when President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France. The next year the Lewis and Clark expedition set out for the Pacific Ocean from the St. Louis area. The town became a “gateway to the West” for settlers, as well as a steamship port and railroad center. The gleaming arch has come to represent the spirit of a nation always ready to take on the next frontier.