In a project that began in 1933, civic leaders set out to accomplish two goals: to have the riverfront designated a historic site within the National Park System, and to raise $225,000 to sponsor a national competition for the design of a monument to Thomas Jefferson and the spirit of westward expansion. Conditions of the competition for the forty-block site called for, among other things: a museum, places for recreation, parking, relocation of existing railroad tracks, a heliport, a tree-shaded park, and a monument representing seven given historic events in St. Louis’ past.
Five first-stage winners were awarded $10,000. First prize for the second stage winner was $40,000. 172 entries were received from which it took the seven-member jury three days to select the five winners. After a five month period for final submissions passed, the jury reconvened and on the first ballot made a unanimous decision. The winner was Eero Saarinen, a thirty-seven year old architect and son of the famous Eliel (who also entered the competition). Young Saarinen’s basic inverted catenary form “had the inevitable quality of the right solution,” the jury commented.
Saarinen died in 1961, shortly after the groundbreaking. His partners supervised the three and one-half year construction of the Arch.
Dimensions: 640′ x 640′
Year Completed: 1965
Material: Stainless steel
Owner: National Park Service
Donor: Private donors