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[photo] The Gateway Arch, the most visable symbol within the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historic Site, commemorates the spirit of the western pioneers in American history
Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri, commemorates President Thomas Jefferson's vision of the continental destiny of the United States, evidenced by his sponsorship of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. President Jefferson's final instructions to Lewis and Clark were:

. . .the object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal streams of it, as, by its course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce . . . (DeVoto 1997, 5)

In December 1803, Clark established "Camp River Dubois" on the Wood River at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, north of St. Louis, Missouri. While at the camp it was Clark's responsibility to train the many different men who had volunteered to go on the expedition and turn them into an efficient team. Meanwhile, Lewis spent the winter in St. Louis, then a Spanish controlled town of 900 inhabitants, gathering supplies and equipment for the journey. On March 9, 1804, Lewis attended a special ceremony in St. Louis, during which the Upper Louisiana Territory was transferred to the United States. All the land from the Mississippi River to the tops of the Rocky Mountains now officially belonged
[photo]
Photo taken from the Gateway Arch looking down over the Mississippi River
Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection

to the United States. Two months later the expedition was ready to begin. Clark and the men went to St. Charles, Missouri, where Lewis joined them a week later.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is comprised of the Gateway Arch (a National Historic Landmark), the Museum of Westward Expansion, and St. Louis' Old Courthouse. Architect Eero Saarinen's design for a 630-foot stainless steel catenary arch was selected in a 1947 design competition as the ideal monument to the spirit of the western pioneers. However, construction on the Gateway Arch did not begin until the 1960s. The Arch, the tallest monument in the United States, cost less than $15 million and was built to withstand high winds and earthquakes. Below the Gateway Arch lies the Museum of Westward Expansion, which houses an extensive collection of artifacts and an overview of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The nearby Old Courthouse, built in 1839, is one of the oldest existing buildings in St.Louis.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, is located in the heart of downtown St. Louis on the Mississippi River. The Gateway Arch and Museum of Westward Expansion are open daily from 8:00am to 10:00pm Memorial Day-Labor Day and 9:00am to 6:00pm the remainder of the year. The Old Courthouse is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm. Admission is free. All are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's day. Separate fees are charged for tickets to see films and for the tram ride to the top of the Arch on a per-event basis. Please call 314-655-1700, or visit the park's website for further information. You can also download (in pdf) the Gateway Arch National Historic Landmark nomination.

The Old Courthouse, part of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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