Monday morning we were up and out the door early. We had purchased tickets online to take the 11:00 elevator/tram to the top of the Gateway Arch. The drive into the city was surprisingly easy with no traffic backups. We had scoped out parking the day before so we were able to bypass all the construction around the Arch area and pull right into the parking garage.
Currently there is a $380 million construction makeover of the Arch area including a new Plaza, museum and visitors center. We had to go to the Old Courthouse to check in and be sure our online tickets were okay since this is the location of the ticketing center during the construction projects. The Old Courthouse is a beautiful building constructed in 1828 with renovations from 1839-1862. Inside are restored courtrooms and exhibits on the Dred Scott slavery trials where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for and were granted their freedom in 1846 and Virginia Minor fought for women’s rights. A gorgeous cast-iron dome designed after the dome on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome wowed us. The dome was constructed in 1861 at the same time as the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.
We walked seven blocks from the Old Courthouse to the Gateway Arch, stopping to take pictures at the Old Cathedral, consecrated in 1834.
The Gateway Arch by law is the tallest structure in St Louis, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, the highest point in downtown St Louis and one of the most recognized landmarks in the country. It was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and is a monument to President Jefferson and his vision of westward expansion across the continent. Nearly 2.4 million people visit the Gateway Arch each year. The Arch is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a 90 acre park operated by the National Park System and was designated a national historic site in 1935. It is located on the banks of the Mississippi River, steps from where Lewis and Clark completed their historic journey.
After checking in we waited until our designated time to board the “Journey to the Top”. The ride is composed of barrel shaped tram capsules with five cramped seats in each capsule joining together to form a train like vehicle that runs on tracks inside the hollow legs of the Arch. The capsules remain level during the ride which takes four minutes up and because of gravity three minutes to come back down. The ride design is a combination of a Ferris wheel and elevator technology that carried us 630 feet to the viewing platform at the top of the Arch. At the top is a room with a series of small windows with great views of St Louis and the Mississippi River.
These exhibits were at the bottom of the Arch.
We finished our visit to the Arch by viewing a movie at the Tucker Theater located at the bottom of the Gateway Arch titled “Monument to the Dream”. It is an excellent movie detailing the construction of the 630 foot Arch from February, 1963 until its completion on October 28, 1968. The Arch is made up of stainless steel on the outside, carbon steel on the inside and concrete in the middle.
We grabbed a quick lunch and visited the “Inside the Economy Museum” located inside the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. This Federal Reserve is one of twelve Reserve banks in the U.S. along with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. that make up the country’s central bank.
We had to show our driver’s licenses, go through security and get a visitor’s badge. We had hoped there would be a guided tour of the Economy Museum but it was only a self guided tour with movies and exhibits on Global Economy, The Federal Reserve, Markets, Banking, Inflation, etc. One neat thing was a video where that showed opening up a vault door then we could see real Federal Reserve workers handling and counting money which had been brought to the Reserve to be shredded.
We then drove to a neighborhood of St Louis called the Delmar Loop. This is a vibrant, funky and culturally diverse neighborhood. An eight foot tall statue of Chuck Berry is dedicated to the Father of Rock and Roll. Our main reason for coming here was to see the St Louis Walk of Fame, with more than 150 stars dedicated to famous St Louisans and plaques summarizing their achievements and connection to the city. It is much like the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California. We spent some time walking around looking at the stars. Some of the famous people included Betty Grable, Tina Turner, Bob Costas, Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola, John Goodman, Maya Angelou, Phyllis Diller, Vincent Price, Shelley Winters, Charles Lindbergh, and Tennessee Williams. Also along the sidewalk was the Delmar Loop Planet Walk which takes you on a three billion mile walk (2,880 feet) from the Sun to Neptune on the scale model of the solar system with informative markers at each planet.
By this time our Garmin pedometers told us we had walked over five miles so we decided to treat ourselves to custard at the famous “Ted Drewes Frozen Custard” on the way home. This business has been selling frozen custard since 1929 and its location is on a designated section of historic U. S. Route 66. They are known for their “concrete” custard which is so thick that if you turn it upside down it will not fall out of the cup. I had banana and Bill had chocolate and banana flavor. Super good!
“History, by apprising the people of the past, will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men;” Thomas Jefferson, 1782.