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Gateway to the West
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-07-24 20:09:21 | Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Keywords: architecture, art, attraction, photography, skyline
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 claustrophobic!

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.

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