History & Culture
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial consists of the Gateway Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion, and St. Louis' Old Courthouse. During a nation-wide competition in 1947-48, architect Eero Saarinen's inspired design for a 630-foot stainless steel arch was chosen as a perfect monument to the spirit of the western pioneers. Construction of the Arch began in 1963, and was completed on October 28, 1965, for a total cost of less than $15 million. The Arch has foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, and is built to withstand earthquakes and high winds; it sways up to 1 inch in a 20 mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches. A Grand Staircase leads from the St. Louis levee up to the base of the Gateway Arch.
Fees are charged to ride the unique tram system to the top. The Museum of Westward Expansion, located below the Arch, is as large as a football field and contains an extensive collection of artifacts, mounted animal specimens, an authentic American Indian tipi, and an overview of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Located just two blocks west of the Arch, the Old Courthouse is one of the oldest standing buildings in St. Louis, begun in 1839. It was here that the first two trials of the Dred Scott case were held in 1847 and 1850. Today, the building houses a museum charting the history of the city of St. Louis and restored courtrooms. These buildings, along with the accompanying grounds, make the total acreage for this park 90.96 acres.
Click here to learn more about the history of park from our Administrative Histories, Cultural Landscape Report 2010 or Cultural Landscape Report 1996. Click here to view the Historic Structure Report for the Gateway Arch.
The park collections include books, images, objects and papers about the history of the park, the history of westward expansion, the Lewis and Clark expedition and St. Louis history. Click here to learn more about these park collections.
Did You Know?
In 1846, a slave named Dred Scott sued for his freedom at the St. Louis Courthouse. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the verdict set the stage for the Civil War. Today, the Old Courthouse is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Click to learn more about Dred Scott. More...