They say that New Yorkers don’t visit the Statue of Liberty. I never have, even though I grew up in the nearby suburbs. I try not to repeat that mistake when traveling, which is why I’m surprised it has taken me this long to make it to the top of the Gateway Arch. The Arch is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis.
On our 3,000 mile road trip in the summer of 2007, my family had the bad luck of visiting the Arch two days after a power outage caused all sorts of havoc. I got some nice pictures from the base, but did not ascend. We thought about going to the Arch in January, but it was completely engulfed in fog.
This past weekend, my wife and I made a quick trip through St. Louis after picking up our son at college. We had enough time on Saturday to go up in the Arch and to see the excellent (although dated) movie, “Monument to the Dream.” I just put the DVD on my wish list.
The documentary shows how the landmark was constructed in the early ’60s. It made me wish I could go back and see television news coverage from the raising of the last piece on October 28, 1965. I did find a good YouTube video with some pre-Arch history. A model outside the theater shows the last piece being raised into place.
The land below the Arch looks like a quiet, grassy park. It conceals an underground complex with two theaters, gift shops, a museum and more. The Museum of Westward Expansion featured lots of information about the Louisiana Purchase and an interesting smaller exhibit about baseball teams moving and expanding to the West. The warning not to touch the taxidermied animals amused me. Apparently not everyone knows that dead bison grow no hair.
The view out the city side of the Arch was more interesting than the view out the river side. Looking toward the north I could see the Edward Jones Dome. Looking toward the south I could see Busch Stadium. I really want to attend a Cardinals game there some day.
Because our plan was to leave early enough on Sunday to get home to watch the Oscars (we made it with minutes to spare), we wanted to go to a vigil Mass on Saturday night. St. Louis has a plethora of Catholic parishes and we hadn’t decided which one to visit. I even asked my friend Fr. Ragan Schriver for suggestions. Once we had seen the movie and looked at the Museum of Westward Expansion, it was after 5:00 p.m. and we didn’t have time to get to either of the churches Fr. Ragan had mentioned. I was collecting some brochures from the ranger at the information desk when I realized the answer was on a flyer in my hands. In fact, two hours earlier, I had photographed The Old Cathedral from 630 feet up. We could easily walk there in time for the 5:30 Mass.