|Officially it's a monument to Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to the opening of the Western territories and the pivotal role played then by Saint Louis, nicknamed 'Gateway to the West', but most people know it as the 'Arch'. Built in early 1960s, this 630 ft high (192 m) – making it the tallest monument in the US, structure of stainless steel really gave a distinctive signature to St. Louis' skyline.|
To make room for the Arch, they
destroyed a large old section of the city, eradicating a whole
history of architecture, keeping only documentation of it in the
National Park service archives. Although the Arch is great and is a
great contribution to the city, I think the price paid to erect it
there was too high.
Although the Arch is spectacular and
shinny, it's not a camera candy like the 'Bean' in Chicago. First,
because of the dimension of the object. Second, there's no real nice
point of view to picture it with the city in the background...
especially the old court house. The Arch is located very close to
the water front on the Missouri side of the city, with only a partial
view from the river bank. On the Illinois side of East St. Louis,
there's no real access to the waterfront... and you can access by
foot the farthest of the two bridges closest to the Arch.
Even if I didn't have much money for
tours in St. Louis (although they are limited), I had to pay the $10
to get up the Arch. I'm afraid of heights but in some circumstances
(like on the top of a building, I'm okay). I knew I wouldn't be okay
up there... because of the structure itself... just the thought that
there's only a few feet of metal underneath my feet before a 630 ft
drop is enough to stir up my stomach. But I had to challenge myself
and get up there... the photographer in me wanted to see the view.
But you have another challenge to reach
up there... the ascension. It's down through a chain of 8 little
cars like you see below, in which you have 5 seats. The door opening
is 4 feet high by 2 feet wide (see picture below). Once inside, I had to bend myself and
my head was still touching the ceiling. It was a long 4-minute ride
up... with frequent jerks of the cabin as it was adjusting itself to
maintain us on a vertical position. Not recommended if you are
Once I exited the cabin on top of the
Arch, I climbed the last stairs to reach the observation deck. It
was curvy and narrow. Although we could stay on top as long as we
want, I wasn't at ease at all... and I quickly looked at both sides
of the Arch, took a few shots of the western side (St. Louis' side)
and got out of the deck to go down the stairs to wait for the first
train to get back down. I would have gladly walked down the 1076
steps if I had too... even with an injured heel, rather than staying
on top there.