Jefferson National Expansion
Administrative History
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Administrative History
Sharon A. Brown

1933-1935: The Idea

In 1803 Thomas Jefferson envisioned a future time in which the United States would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. This dream was later realized, as hundreds of thousands of European-Americans settled on western land in the Louisiana Territory and beyond. In the year 1849, for instance, emigrant Sarah Royce had visions of a new life as she plodded steadily west across the prairies. Eighty-four years later, St. Louisan Luther Ely Smith had a similar vision, in which his city's riverfront might be transformed by building a monument to Thomas Jefferson and such hardy pioneers as Sarah Royce.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial symbolizes many things: westward visionaries, stalwart pioneers, and Thomas Jefferson's foresight. Still being built after nearly half a century, the memorial owes its formation to countless unsung people who gave their time, energy, money and talent to make it a reality. There is an obvious comparison between them and the western pioneering men and women they strove to honor; only with determination, patience, maneuvering, aggressiveness, perseverance, and sheer willpower were both groups able to realize their dreams.

Shortly after Thanksgiving of 1933 Luther Ely Smith, a St. Louis lawyer, was returning to St. Louis on a train from a visit to Vincennes, Indiana, where he toured the new memorial to George Rogers Clark. Smith served as a member of the memorial's Federal commission after being appointed by his college classmate, Calvin Coolidge. As Smith and his friends gazed out the train windows at the decaying St. Louis riverfront passing slowly by, they realized that only drastic measures could restore the district; yet a wealth of history existed in those narrow streets. The idea of a historical monument began.

When he heard Smith's idea of building a monument on the riverfront, Mayor Bernard Dickmann liked it and decided to test its support in the local community. On December 15, 1933, he called a group of civic and business leaders into his office to discuss Smith's plan. St. Louis historian McCune Gill was approached by the two men and came to the meeting armed with a tentative memorial plan. The group of men liked the idea and formed a temporary committee to look further into the matter. They named Smith chairman and Dickmann vice chairman. Other committee members included John G. Lonsdale, Carl F.G. Meyer, Jesse McDonald, Morton J. May, Sidney Maestre, Tom Gilmartin and McCune Gill. In the next few months this group planned to raise money and generate public interest. [1]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was enthusiastic about the idea, stating that he was "greatly interested in the suggestion for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial for the St. Louis Riverfront ... I can ... tell you that I like the principle underlying the thought of a memorial to the vision of Thomas Jefferson and the pioneers in the opening up of the Great West." [2]

In April 1934 the committee obtained a state charter as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association and acquired a nonprofit designation. [3] There was a strong effort from the beginning to keep the project bipartisan, especially by Smith, an independent Republican dealing with a Democratic city administration. This fortunate tradition would last throughout the memorial's history. With its good start, the group intended to arouse public interest, adopt suitable plans, solicit money and property, and improve a site for ... a suitable and permanent public memorial to the men who made possible the western territorial expansion of the United States, particularly President Jefferson, his aides Livingston and Monroe, the great explorers, Lewis and Clark, and the hardy hunters, trappers, frontiersmen and pioneers who contributed to the territorial expansion and development of these United States, and thereby to bring before the public of this and future generations the history of our development and induce familiarity with the patriotic accomplishments of these great builders of our country. [4]

Rebuilding the riverfront area was not a new idea. For years St. Louisans had watched the slow disintegration of the area bounded by Fourth Street, Washington Avenue, and Poplar Street. As early as 1887, statesman James G. Blaine made a suggestion to build a statue of Jefferson, memorializing the Louisiana Purchase. The next year interested property holders held meetings to discuss dwindling property values within the district, and they proposed an association to seek measures to restore property values in the area. Their efforts failed but interest in the problem did not die. In 1898, during planning for the Louisiana Purchase Centennial, an idea developed to rebuild a pioneer village on the site of St. Louis' founding. Such a project would have eliminated some of the riverfront's decayed buildings. This plan failed when a majority of the Centennial Committee decided to build a temporary city in St. Louis' Forest Park instead. The result: the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. [5]

There were other proposals, such as that of architect Harland Bartholomew. Bartholomew worked for the City Plan Commission and in 1928 he drew up detailed plans for a riverfront development. A model was made and placed on public display. Luther Ely Smith served as chairman of the voluntary Citizen's City Plan Commission, which preceded the municipal body of the same name. It was this committee which brought Harland Bartholomew to St. Louis. [6]

None of these plans gained enough public support to become reality, but interest in riverfront development evolved during the Great Depression. This period of economic chaos meant lost jobs, idle workers and wasted skills. As a civic leader, then a member of the Council of Civic Needs, Luther Ely Smith saw the memorial as a way to relieve two problems, since monument construction would create jobs while clearing the decayed riverfront.

Max H. Doyne, an engineer, developed a plan in January 1933 to "improve the usefulness and value of the property" next to the river. [7] These and other plans came to Smith and Dickmann's committee. The Association of Citizens for Riverfront Improvement publicized its ideas in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in June 1933, but did not send them to the association for consideration until March 1935. These plans proposed razing all buildings between Third Street on the west, Washington Avenue on the north, and Walnut Street on the south. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a government agency, would foot the cost. Hudson R. Darst devised such a plan early in October 1933. After seeing publication of McCune Gill's plans in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in December 1933, Darst claimed credit for the initial idea, and sent blueprints to Mayor Dickmann with a request that he "personally peruse" the material. [8]

Only the association headed by Smith progressed beyond the drawing-board stage. The group split into smaller subcommittees to consider various phases of the project — Legislative, Publicity, Finance, Historical Data, Plan and Scope. Within months the association members introduced their idea to their congressional representatives, determined the necessary level of appropriation, and drafted bills for consideration by Congress. Group members met with prominent visitors, wrote publicity brochures and booklets, conducted fund raising campaigns, prepared budgets, employed St. Louis architect Louis La Beaume, gathered historical data, listed property holdings, and reported their results to the association's executive committee. The group designated the area to be considered for the memorial as "approximately one-half mile in length ... from Third Street east to the present elevated railroad." [9] These reports compiled by association members and interested St. Louisans provided a foundation for almost all work conducted over the next thirty years. At this early stage the memorial already appeared as not merely a local project, but an enterprise with national character and importance.

Legislative Efforts

In January 1934 Missouri Senator Bennett Champ Clark and Representative John Cochran, appropriating $30,000,000 for the memorial jointly introduced a resolution into both congressional houses. Representative Cochran warned Mayor Dickmann that the resolutions needed the Bureau of the Budget's approval. [10] The resolutions (H.J. Res. 213, S.J. Res. 66) quickly ran into trouble, since they were asking for so large an appropriation in the midst of a depression. As the weeks passed Smith and the association realized that they would not obtain their appropriation at that session of Congress. Cochran reported to Dickmann that he had spoken with various congressional leaders, and warned him that he would not "get to first base" with a $30,000,000 appropriation. "I do not think the President would even dare to make such a recommendation to the Congress with the finances of the country in the condition they are at present." [11]

Smith and Dickmann shifted tactics by proposing a commission patterned after the George Rogers Clark Memorial Commission. In March 1934 joint resolutions (H.J. Res. 302, S.J. Res. 93) were introduced in the House and Senate "authorizing the creation of a Federal Memorial Commission" to construct a permanent memorial. [12] Smith expected the commission to investigate the memorial's feasibility and report favorably to Congress. He hoped for the passage of this bill, which would encourage Congress to appropriate the money in its next term, "unless in the meantime it should be started as a Public Works project." [13]

Nevertheless, problems still arose in Congress. Even though the thrust of the group was now toward authorization only, critics accused the project's backers at every turn of wanting congressional appropriations. Association members themselves committed a major error when they mailed information booklets that contained the original resolution requesting a $30,000,000 appropriation to congressional members. This action reinforced fears that the association later would return to ask for that amount. Political sense dictated that an authorization should be sought and acquired before making mention of appropriations. Cochran continued to assure Smith that he would do everything in his power to help [14] and he tried to counteract the booklet blunder by writing each House member an explanation that the new resolution would create a commission only. [15] But when asked on April 16 on the House floor if the resolution carried an appropriation, he gave a startling reply:

I want to be frank .... An association in my city, St. Louis, through its officers, approached me to introduce a resolution calling for an appropriation from the Federal Government of $36,000,000 to construct a memorial ... in honor of Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. The mayor of my city and other gentlemen made this request. I told them that I did not want to introduce such a resolution; that I knew it had absolutely no chance to pass. They insisted that the resolution be introduced. I introduced it; and on the day I introduced it I gave a statement to the press in my city practically ridiculing the idea of asking an appropriation of such amount from the Congress for a memorial, calling their attention to the cost ... of other memorials that the Government has constructed. I suggested to them that they organize in the area covering the Louisiana Purchase, that they bring in all the States ... but not to ask the Government of the United States to construct it. They took my advice and drew a second resolution, which does not obligate the Government in any manner, shape or form; and it is the second resolution that is under consideration at the present time. [16]

When asked if he felt this resolution would be an opening wedge for later appropriations, Cochran replied, "I presume that some day this organization may return to the Congress and ask for a reasonable appropriation; but if I happen to be here at that time I assure the gentleman as far as I personally am concerned I would not ask for the appropriation of more than a limited amount. . . . " [17]

Smith was appalled. "I was under the impression that you no longer entertained any doubts as to the plan and its general outline," he wrote, emphasizing that the project was not to be local but rather national in scope. Smith asked Cochran to consider the resolution as an appointment of a commission only, and not an appropriation, whenever he wrote future letters to congressmen. [18]

Meanwhile the Senate bill (S.J. Res. 93) was reported out on March 28 and referred to the House Library Committee on April 5. The association hoped the committee would report favorably on this Senate bill, thus opening the door for its passage in the House on unanimous consent day, or under a rule from the Committee on Rules. Smith wrote letters to many congressmen and association lobbyists. Missouri representatives personally contacted others. Smith asked Representative James R. Claiborne (Missouri) to make sure that the House library Committee reported favorably and that proper steps were taken to have the Committee on Rules report a rule under which the resolution could be called up and passed in the House. [19]

There was a possibility that the House might pass the resolution on the next calendar day (Monday, May 7), but Smith did not want to run any risks due to the nearness of Congress' upcoming adjournment. His doubts proved valid, for on May 7 objections to the bill arose in the House. Republican opponents insisted it represented an opening wedge for millions of dollars in appropriations. Senator Clarence Cannon (Missouri) told Smith that if the Committee on Rules reported out a special resolution (H. Res. 356) providing for consideration of the Senate bill (S.J. Res. 93), the House could take up the bill

during the next week. This would be possible if Congressman Cochran could secure an agreement with the speaker and majority leader. A week later Claiborne explained to Smith that the House Library Committee had reported favorably on both the Senate and House bills. He contacted various congressmen urging them to put the resolutions on the calendar as soon as possible; however, he could not tell Smith when this would happen. Claiborne remained fairly optimistic, however, that the bill would pass before adjournment. [20]

Into the month of June Missouri's congressmen and association members continued to communicate with House leaders. Association member Max O'Rell Truitt learned early in June that the House might consider the bill, but that it would have problems gaining House attention because of the usual last minute rush to adjourn. Congressional leaders remained cautious on the bill's chances of consideration. Finally, on June 8 the bill held second place on the day's procedure. That day it was considered, special rule H. Res. 356 was agreed upon, and S.J. Res. 93 passed the House by an overwhelming majority. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on June 15, 1934, establishing the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission. [21]

The Commission would have fifteen members: three chosen by the President, three by the House of Representatives, three by the Senate, and six by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association. In June the Senate and House chose their commissioners: Senators Alben William Barkley (Kentucky), James John Davis (Pennsylvania), and Frederick Van Nuys (Indiana); Representatives John N. Sandlin (Louisiana), Lloyd Thurston (Iowa), and Kent Ellsworth Keller (Illinois). Cochran and association members Jesse McDonald and J. Lionberger Davis suggested potential commissioners to President Roosevelt, including Roosevelt's own uncle, Frederic A. Delano, who did not receive an appointment. In October the President chose William T. Kemper (Missouri), J. Lionberger Davis (Missouri), and General Jefferson Randolph Kean (Washington, D.C., a great-great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson). For its choices the association primarily strove for a geographically diverse group, to emphasize the project's national significance. In November the members of the association chose (after considering, among others, John D. Rockefeller) their own Luther Ely Smith, Newton Baker (Ohio), William Allen White (Kansas), Matthew Woll (New York), Dr. Charles E. Merriam (Illinois), and Amon G. Carter (Texas). On December 19, 1934, the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission held its first meeting in St. Louis. [22] President Roosevelt personally sent them a congratulatory telegram: "All good wishes for the success of your Commission's efforts to recall and perpetuate the ideals, the faith and courage of the pioneers who discovered and developed the great west." [23]

Despite the commission's creation, association members continued to develop detailed plans for the riverfront. By December they talked of holding an architectural competition for the memorial. In January 1935 Louis La Beaume wrote his concept of a competition. It contained the principal elements of the competition which was actually held twelve years later: it was national in scope, a competition held in two stages, with data included in the program, and included the acquisition of a professional advisor. [24]

The United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission did not waste time. At their first meeting in St. Louis the commissioners received a briefing from the association, reviewed plans for the memorial, visited the historic site on the riverfront, and elected an executive committee with Senator Barkley as chairman. Their second meeting, held in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 1935, attracted many influential observers: Missouri Senators Bennett Champ Clark and Harry Truman, Missouri Representatives John Cochran, James R. Claiborne, and Thomas C. Hennings, Jr., as well as Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann. [25]

Meanwhile Smith and Dickmann arranged through Senator Barkley to meet with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes on January 31. [26] Accompanied by William Allen White, Louis La Beaume, and association member William D'Arcy, the two answered Ickes' questions about how many workers could be employed. When Ickes asked about the memorial's maintenance, association members replied that "the National Park Service" would maintain it. Mayor Dickmann asserted that the city of St. Louis would contribute its share to the project by either providing the site or in some other way. Ickes became "very sympathetic toward the idea," and arranged a meeting for the group with the President. [27]

After the commission meeting the following day, February 1, the group met with Roosevelt at noon. Barkley, Keller, Dickmann, White, Smith, D'Arcy, and La Beaume presented a general outline of development, answered questions about the architectural competition, noted the number of St. Louisans who were unemployed, predicted a starting date, and estimated the project's duration. Although Roosevelt thought it impossible to obtain government funds for the memorial's entire cost of $30,000,000, he thought that some available Works Relief Fund money could provide for a year's work on the memorial. [28]

During the next several weeks the association, under the supervision of the commission, further developed the memorial plans. One step already taken was the hiring of Louis La Beaume as supervisory architect. Association members defined their rules of order, established functioning committee machinery, adopted fiscal procedures, and recommended Bon Geaslin of Washington, D.C. as their legal representative with Washington officials. William D'Arcy was very optimistic at this point. He recognized difficulties surrounding the project, but felt that "we seem to be under favorable guidance from some unknown source that makes me believe that we are going to win in spite of everything." [29]

Events indeed seemed favorable. An enabling act authorizing the issuance of bonds to aid the federal project was introduced into the Missouri State Legislature in February. After both houses passed the act unanimously, Governor Guy B. Park signed it on April 15. Almost simultaneously, on April 13 (by chance Thomas Jefferson's birthday), the Commission's executive committee approved plans for the memorial. They agreed to the association's proposed boundaries of the memorial area, the memorial's historical significance, the national architectural competition, and the cost estimate of $30,000,000 for acquisition, development, and other planning matters. [30]


Smith and Dickmann turned their attention to financial matters. At the end of March they considered the Public Works Administration (PWA) as a source of funds, but realized they would have to approach Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes or other Federal officials for the money. A new relief disbursement office, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), had just been established, and Smith and Dickmann tried to discover how WPA funds could be disbursed, and by whom. Max O'Rell Truitt told them to have their plans in shape to present to the proper authorities, because "Activity will be necessary as soon as the Bill has been signed by the President." In April Senator Harry S Truman informed Smith that organizational machinery for the WPA was not yet in motion, as Roosevelt had not chosen a director. [31]

Commission members conferred on April 20 with Harry L. Hopkins, director of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. He asked specific questions concerning amounts of work relief in the project, the number of employable workers, and other factors. He, too, showed interest. When Dickmann and association members left Washington, they felt optimistic toward both Hopkins and Ickes. [32] Only later did they discover that everything was not settled there.

On May 1 at the third session of the full commission, the commissioners approved their executive committee's favorable report concerning the memorial project. Members of both the commission and the association met the next day with Frank C. Walker, executive director of the National Emergency Council, and Rexford Tugwell, assistant secretary of agriculture. Smith supplied Tugwell with information concerning the purpose, scope, and significance of the project, estimating that between five and six thousand people would be employed. As a result of this meeting, Walker immediately wrote a letter of transmittal to an official at the National Emergency Council Office requesting that the plans and application for funds be received. This completed, the plans reached Assistant Director of the Public Works Administration Horatio Hackett, who sent them to the Missouri State PWA office in St. Louis. Formal application blanks were issued by the engineer-in-charge on June 15. [33]

On July 1 the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance permitting the holding of a special bond issue election to contribute $7,500,000 toward the memorial. On July 19 the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment appropriated $60,000 to meet the expenses of conducting registration required by law for special elections. The aldermen also approved spending $63,000 to hold the election itself. All of this was done on the understanding that Federal authorities would approve the project while contributing a substantial allotment before the election date. The city would contribute funds on a ratio with Federal funds. [34]


Events moved fast in St. Louis, but in Washington, D.C., political wheels turned at a different pace. In 1935 federal relief existed under various programs. The Public Works Administration, established in June 1933, was under the chairmanship of Harold Ickes and enjoyed several kinds of authority, including initiation of its own construction projects. It emphasized large public works, and made loans and grants to states and other public bodies to stimulate nonfederal construction. Two of its members were Frederic A. Delano and Dr. Charles E. Merriam (also on the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission). Rather than manage the PWA as a direct economic stimulant, Ickes emphasized scandal-free spending. Since every PWA contract and plan was carefully reviewed, programs encountered long delays. Additional time was lost to advance planning and legal actions. Despite its slow pace, the PWA served a social function, if not an economic one. This agency's workers built public buildings, roads, schools, bridges, hospitals, tunnels, and hundreds of other projects. [35]

Another relief approach was established in May 1933 when Washington authorized $500 million in relief money for distribution through state and local agencies. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), headed by Harry Hopkins, a social worker from Iowa, coordinated this effort. Within a half-hour after receiving his appointment at the White House, Hopkins placed a desk in the hallway of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation where he drank coffee and chain-smoked cigarettes. Within his first two hours in office, he spent more than $5 million. After Hopkins convinced Roosevelt that emergency measures were needed to keep millions of people alive over the winter, the president established the Civil Works Administration (CWA). Half of CWA workers came from Federal relief payrolls and were paid minimum wages. Within a month Hopkins created four million jobs, providing $1 billion worth of purchasing power over the winter. The program's high cost forced Roosevelt to end it the following spring. By April 1934 the CWA fired all four million workers, allowing FERA once again to manage Federal relief. [36]

By mid-1934 the Great Depression was still in its darkest hours, and one of seven Americans still received relief. The Federal Government had spent $2 billion, yet twenty million people still needed assistance. Beyond merely continuing these relief programs, Washington intended to bring cohesiveness to them. Believing the government should quit the relief business, Roosevelt felt direct federal relief should end on a specified date. Local governments thereafter would provide pauper relief while Washington concentrated on providing every worker with a job through a massive public works effort costing $5 billion the first year. This approach intended to serve both economic and social ends; it hoped to start recovery by providing work while aiding the unemployed until they found work in the private business sector.

Hopkins and Ickes both agreed with this policy. By November 1934 the Federal Government had set the broad design for the next phase of federal work relief, but actual composition of the works program remained a thorn in Washington's side. Authorized early in 1935, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, worth $5 billion, represented the largest single appropriation in the history of the United States. Such a staggering sum fomented a battle over its control between Ickes and Hopkins. Secretary Ickes favored large public works while Hopkins stressed maximum employment. Hopkins finally won this contest when the newly established Works Progress Administration featured small projects providing relief work with negligible material costs. With relief money split between several agencies, Hopkins had only $1.4 billion to spend. The WPA nevertheless hired some three million workers who left a legacy still found today in the form of schools, hospitals, and playgrounds across the nation. [37]

Dickmann and Smith recognized these conflicts within the administration of Washington's relief policies during the summer of 1935 when they tried to obtain work relief money for St. Louis. As early as May Smith was warned of the Ickes-Hopkins rivalry. All through June, Smith kept the memorial alive by having association and commission members write to government officials. Ickes told William Allen White that he personally wanted to see the project adopted. National Park Service Director Arno Cammerer hinted that not only would the Park Service consider taking care of the finished memorial but that it might also supervise its construction. Since Luther Ely Smith believed the memorial offered the possibility of immediate expenditures for unskilled labor, he felt it fit "more into Mr. Hopkins' plan than any other project can possibly do." As a result, Smith concentrated on winning Hopkins' support, followed by the President's. [38]

At the end of June, Senator Alben Barkley spoke with Hopkins about the project and heard him express concern over the time required to finish the memorial. Barkley assured him that the association wanted to start as soon as possible. In consideration of the city's promised contribution, Hopkins thought he could add $8,000,000 as a start. His division would handle the demolition. Barkley then saw Secretary Ickes, reported his conversation with Hopkins, and heard Ickes state once again that he favored the project. Ickes then discussed the idea with President Roosevelt, who hoped a satisfactory arrangement would develop. [39]

The assistant administrator of the WPA told Amon Carter in July that the application for the memorial was approved. It then went to the National Emergency Council for consideration by the Advisory Committee on Allotments. A few days later, on July 24, Hopkins himself wrote Carter that the project was "receiving considered and sympathetic attention." Colonel Horatio Hackett of the PWA planned to hold a conference with the commission to work out specific commitments if the city bond issue passed. [40]

Association members wanted a firm guarantee from the Federal Government as early as possible that it would support the bond issue campaign. On August 7, commission members, along with Mayor Dickmann, Senator Clark, and several association members, met with Secretary Ickes and Harry Hopkins seeking immediate federal action so that city officials could go ahead with final plans for the bond issue. Again Ickes and Hopkins approved the project and promised to allot $10,000,000 for the first year's work. When Hopkins asked about memorial maintenance, Ickes replied that the National Park Service (an agency within his department) would assume this responsibility. The men from St. Louis asked for written confirmation of this agreement but Ickes refused, telling Senator Clark to make the agreement known in a statement to the press. [41]

St. Louis faced another concern: the acquisition of title to the property along the riverfront. During the spring and summer association members worked closely with Blair and United States Attorney Harry Blanton over the question of title. Blair outlined possible procedures for the association to follow. Title certificates needed dating, but he warned delays might arise if title abstracts became necessary for each lot. Immediate possession of vacant lots could be obtained, along with lots whose owners could move out at once. He gave Dickmann and Smith advice on how to shorten the time between the passage of the bond issue and the time needed to prepare the bonds. [42]

National Park Service officials began their preliminary investigations during August by sending engineer John Nagle to St. Louis to inspect plans and the proposed location. In the report on his three-day fact-finding tour Nagle favored the project, stating that the memorial would commemorate the Louisiana Purchase and Thomas Jefferson. He believed the national significance of the project warranted federal aid. "If administered by the National Park Service ... or by some other competent federal agency, no reasons are apparent why the project should not receive the support of the National Government." [43] In this initial prospectus Nagle did not predict the pending bond issue election's outcome, but nevertheless, stated that official opinion remained quite optimistic while private opinion seemed more "restrained." Nagle noted that Federal approval of at least a major portion of the project was necessary before any city funds would be applied to it. The much quoted $30 million price tag he thought was possibly too high, because it did not rest on any definite plans. St. Louis proposed to match Federal funds on a basis of three to one, supplying $2,500,000 to Washington's $7,500,000. Even though the memorial's condemnation of forty city blocks would decrease city revenues by $180,000 a year, St. Louisans felt that subsequent development would offset such a loss. Nagle then touched upon an issue that would haunt the project for the next twenty-four years.

The most serious problem which will have to be solved is the proper handling of the elevated railroad viaduct which passes along the entire length of the front of the area to be improved and carries the passenger trains of all the railroads which cross the Mississippi over the Merchants Bridge. . . . Although this viaduct introduces a question as to the architectural design, it is thought that this can be handled successfully. [44]

Bond Issue

In St. Louis, attention turned to the approaching bond issue campaign. Fortified with assurances from Ickes and Hopkins, city officials pushed ahead with their plans. Smith became certain that the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) could make a contract stating that if the voters approved the bond issue, the RFC would take the bonds. The RFC then would authorize an advance of funds to enable the Department of Justice to file condemnation suits. Others, however, did not share Smith's confidence. Association lawyer Bon Geaslin wondered if the PWA or the RFC would even take the bonds prior to a determination of their validity by the state supreme court. Edgar H. Wayman, first associate city counselor, stated his opinion on the validity of the proposed bonds without first having a test case decided by the court. He would regard it as "extremely unfortunate" to be compelled to bring a suit to test the validity of the bond issue, resulting in a delay which might cause the project's defeat. He thought the city held power to issue its bonds for a memorial without violating any constitutional provisions. St. Louis had power to condemn the land and to defray construction costs out of the bond issue funds. Furthermore, Wayman felt the memorial would furnish educational and recreational facilities for the city while attracting thousands of people to the city, promoting trade and commerce. Wayman believed that if a test case were brought before the Supreme Court, it would be sustained as valid. [45] Bon Geaslin advised Luther Ely Smith on a major question concerning the bonds. Should the bonds be sold on open market or should they be taken by the Public Works Administration? Bonds sold in the open market would not require as much paperwork as bonds assumed by the PWA or RFC. On the other hand, government bonds would be purchased at par, no premiums would be paid, and they would not be bought at the market price of St. Louis bonds. [46]

During the month preceding the referendum, various interest groups reacted to the need for property value appraisals in the memorial area. The city assessor believed that if property owners in the affected area were to receive just compensation they must secure the assessed valuation for their properties. Many owners in the area welcomed the chance to sell their properties and they notified the association of their property's assessed value. [47]

In the days before the election other WPA projects in the city and state were considered and funded. The state administrator for the Federal Works Program Administration announced on September 2, 1935, that approximately $63,000,000 in Missouri WPA projects were approved by his office for submission to the WPA office in Washington. A total of $95,000,000 of the WPA budget was allotted for Missouri, and of this, $22,000,000 was assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps; $12,000,000 for highway work; $5,000,000 for miscellaneous expenditures; and the remainder for WPA projects. [48] On September 4 WPA department heads approved ninety-three projects on behalf of the city, costing $14,052,165 and employing 21,175 people. The projects were intended to transfer city and county residents from relief rolls to WPA payrolls by November. [49] These actions set the precedent for the association's seeking of relief funds for the memorial.

Association members began extensive campaigning on behalf of the bond issue election. Speakers visited local group and club meetings to deliver speeches and to enlighten St. Louis citizens. Flyers and letters advertised the project's employment of five thousand men for three years. The association pointed out that sixty cents of every dollar spent on the memorial would go for wages, and they publicized favorable resolutions from many historical societies. Legal authorization, names of the commissioners, interest shown by Washington officials and the project's national importance were stressed in newspapers, flyers, handouts, and movie theaters. Association members also claimed the memorial would enhance property values, promote new city growth, and prevent the abandonment of riverfront property. The publicity also stressed costs. Since citizens paid taxes to support the unemployed of St. Louis, why not have Federal funds spent here for St. Louis' benefit? Three cents per hundred dollar-assessed valuation seemed a small price to pay for the project's rewards. "Here's your chance to vote for progress, to vote for your own interests and your city's future," proclaimed William D'Arcy, the association's publicist. Many St. Louis area unions endorsed the bond issue at their regular monthly meetings, and reported their actions to the association. [50]

Nevertheless, opposition arose, and many probing questions were asked. A committee appointed by the "Citizens Organization" asked the status of black workmen on the project and black citizens intending to use memorial facilities. A WPA administrative assistant replied that no needy person within the jurisdiction of the WPA would suffer racial discrimination. Everyone employed for a WPA project would be selected from United States Employment Service registers. [51] The "Committee Representing Industrial Properties South of Clark Avenue and North of Poplar Street" requested that the association restrict its purchases of property to north of Clark Avenue. They stated that the few blocks between Clark Avenue and Poplar Street east of Third Street were a highly developed industrial district with active industries, and owners expected reimbursement on an entirely different basis than the condemnation and purchase of the average property in the district. Painting a specter of thousands of lost dollars in taxable property, this committee warned that "suitable properties for private interests could not be obtained anywhere else" in St. Louis or Missouri under the same economical conditions. Their case received support by the news that the PWA funds might be unavailable because of the time limit on their expenditure. If opposing property holders forced long, drawn-out litigation, it was possible that the funds might disappear. Opposing interests had approached this committee to join forces, but the group promised not to do so unless forced to protect their properties. "Watch your step! ... Stop this spending. Do something!" proclaimed a flyer printed by the Taxpayers Defense Association. It insisted that the number-two Jefferson Memorial (after the one in Washington, D.C.) would be a "glorified parking lot for 10,000 cars." This association also claimed that the Federal Government had made no definite commitment of financial aid, and if it failed to provide the funds the district would become a "37-block mudhole." [52]

Gale Johnston, chairman of the speakers committee of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association, quickly responded to such attacks. Association speakers received bulletins containing information to answer "leading questions" asked by opponents to the bond issue. To charges that St. Louis would be burdened with the maintenance costs forever, that the tax rate would be thirty cents per $100, that the fur industry would flee to East St. Louis, and that the Terminal Railroad Association elevated tracks would not be moved from the riverfront, the association replied that the National Park Service would maintain the memorial without cost to the city, the tax rate would be three cents per $100 for the first ten years, and ten to twelve cents for the second ten years, that the leading furriers had indicated that they would stay on the St. Louis side of the river, and that the memorial architect would determine action on the tracks. Another question concerned the project's potential to employ workers for three years and fears arose also over the project's low pay scale. The association replied that Washington officials established the "conservative" estimate of workers, while a WPA-PWA conference would set pay scales. Although opponents questioned the estimate of $7,500,000 for reimbursing property owners in the thirty-seven blocks as being insufficient, the association reported the total property assessment at $5,700,000, to be covered by acquisition money. Even with a 10 percent additional amount for contingencies, the $7,500,000 appeared ample. Such opposition and replies continued up to the date of the election. [53]

Six days before the election the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to endorse the bond issue. The group conducted a survey showing 290 businesses in the affected area, having a total floor space of 5,084,000 square feet. Thirty-four of the concerns, comprising 6 percent of the floor space, told the Chamber of Commerce they would go out of business if the bond issue passed. The other 256 concerns stated they would move elsewhere in the city. But the Taxpayers Defense Association characterized the action as an affront to the chamber's members who opposed the memorial. The Chamber of Commerce gave several reasons for its endorsement, all based on the city's business interests; the blighted area would be cleared, downtown real estate values would end their decline, and adjoining real estate would be enhanced. The Taxpayers Defense Association, however, countered by reemphasizing the fact that the Federal Government had not yet agreed to provide funds. It produced a telegram from the assistant administrator of the WPA stating there was no official notification of any Federal allotment for the proposed memorial. [54]

A straw vote conducted by city employees in sixteen city wards was announced on September 7. "Noncommitals" numbered 48,000, "yes" votes were 67,678, and those opposed, 19,964. The election board chairman predicted a voter turnout of 125,000 out of a registration of 349,132. [55]

Election Day, September 10, finally arrived. With the words and arguments over, the outcome rested in the voter's hands. At 4 p.m. the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that "Mayor Dickmann's City Hall machine" was receiving the support of the entire Democratic organization. All city offices were closed under Mayor Dickmann's holiday proclamation, and all city employees had been ordered to work in their home precincts to get out the favorable vote. Dickmann warned that their jobs depended on the results. Party politics were put aside as Democrats opposed to Dickmann came out in support of the riverfront bond issue. The Post-Dispatch reported that "most of Dickmann's political enemies had hopped on the band wagon for the day at least." The vote totaled 174,012, far above the election chairman's prediction. It was 49.8 percent of registration, a heavy voter turnout for a bond election. In nineteen wards the bonds carried with a vote of two-thirds or more. In five wards the majority voted against them, while four wards had a favorable majority vote but less than two-thirds. The bonds passed 123,299 to 50,713. (Ward fourteen, Dickmann's own, failed to carry the proposal.) [56]

Mayor Dickmann's victory statement applauded everyone's work. "We have all worked together, regardless of political or other differences for a common victory." Rejoicing, William D'Arcy wrote Dickmann "It would have been a travesty on justice had the voter for any reason not given approval." Smith quickly notified association and commission members, state and federal officials, congressmen, PWA and WPA officials — anyone and everyone who might contribute to the memorial's completion. In an editorial supporting the vote, the Post-Dispatch declared that "A 30-year dream is now about to become a reality." [57]

Following passage of the bond issue, the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission forged ahead with plans to enter into an agreement with Washington. Since formal applications for funds already had been filed in June, Smith and Dickmann made arrangements to travel to the capital. Mayor Dickmann and members of the commission and the association met with Harold Ickes, Harry Hopkins, and officials of the Department of Justice. Once again politicking between Hopkins and Ickes probably accounted for some delay. On September 12 both visited the President's home in Hyde Park, New York, consulting Roosevelt about their differences. Ickes complained to the President that Hopkins was "wrecking" the PWA by rejecting projects already approved by Ickes. Hopkins responded that the rejected projects either cost too much for the number of men employed, or were in places where relief rolls could not supply enough workers. [58]

Legal Problems

After the bond election the Post-Dispatch revealed yet another hitch to the successful completion of the project. When the city board of estimate and apportionment approved the ordinance for the bond issuance, it stated the bonds could be issued only in an amount corresponding to appropriations obtained from the Federal Government at a ratio of $3 federal to $1 local. This opposed the plan announced by Dickmann during the bond campaign. Dickmann stated the bonds would be issued at once and rushed to Washington by plane. He turned over to the PWA collateral for a loan of the same amount to the city. This sum would be turned over to Ickes who would then turn over to the Justice Department a draft for $7,500,000, accompanied with a request for the site confiscation. City Counselor Charles Hay disagreed with Dickmann, saying the city had no authority to pay the government more than $1 for every $3 expended by the government. Now, after the election, the board of estimate took Hay's position. [59]

Nevertheless, Luther Ely Smith, Senator Barkley, and others hoped to get an appointment with Ickes to earmark $22,500,000 for completion of the memorial within three years. If Ickes and Hopkins accepted this proposition, they would reverse their past position that President Roosevelt was against obligating funds for more than one year. Harry Hopkins answered Smith and Barkley's request by saying some funds could be allotted to the memorial. When asked if $22,500,000 would be earmarked to match the city's contribution, Hopkins replied that it was up to Ickes. The Board of Estimate's order that city money could be given only if matched three to one supported the argument for the entire allotment of $22,500,000. [60] On September 26 Ickes announced his decision: the proposed memorial would not qualify for Work Relief Funds unless the legal problems were overcome. An allotment of $22,500,000 could not be made, despite the ruling of the board of estimate. In no instance would more money be allocated than could be used in one year. [61]

Memorial backers approached President Roosevelt, singly and in groups, attempting to keep the project alive. Commission member Senator Alben Barkley talked with FDR about the memorial. In addition, Senator Bennett Champ Clark warned association members not to pressure the President when they made arrangements to meet him. Traveling west by rail, Roosevelt scheduled a stop in East St. Louis, Illinois to change railroad engines on September 27. He agreed to meet Mayor Dickmann, Senator Clark, and others. At the meeting the President himself brought up the matter. "I suppose you gentlemen are here to talk about your riverfront memorial." Ickes and Hopkins, both present, indicated they wanted to begin the project as soon as possible, promising to furnish the necessary funds for the first year's work if the state enabling act authorizing the bond issue and financing would receive a favorable legal interpretation. The President told the delegation to define the law, with reference to the limitation on expenditures. Clark believed that a solution to the problem could be reached. Several days later a group of city officials, including the mayor, met to scrutinize the act for a "proper interpretation." [62]

City Counselor Charles M. Hay tried to determine the city's options in advancing funds for the project. "What we are now seeking to do is figure out a way through which the Federal Government may make a definite and authoritative allocation of its part of the funds without an Act of Congress." [63] Hay believed the President possessed authority to allocate funds out of the PWA or WPA without falling under the expenditure time limit and that with such power, Roosevelt could solve the problem. Hay then touched on an issue which would affect the memorial several months later. "If the President has this authority, then this becomes a question of policy, and, in a very real sense, of politics. I lay emphasis upon the last word, as I think of what we will be confronted with if for any reason we do not go forward with this project. It might mean the loss of Missouri in the next Presidential election, and the loss of Missouri might mean the loss of the Presidency. [64]

Although Luther Ely Smith agreed with Hay's interpretation, association lawyer Bon Geaslin expressed concern over whether the United States intended to spend the appropriation on improvements; the issue over the city's power to give Washington the full proceeds of the bond issue seemed secondary to him. Geaslin felt that if the President allocated the funds with no time limitation, the city would be able to contribute all the allotted funds immediately. But doubt remained over the ability of a presidential executive order to accomplish both aims. Can the President establish national parks and memorials by executive order where the site comes from private owners? Secondly, will the order be enough commitment to warrant the city putting up its $7,500,000? If the President did have the power to approve the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission's report and authorize the $30,000,000, then Congress would have to agree. The stage was thus set for drafting an executive order authorizing the establishment of a national memorial in St. Louis. The order would be a commitment; but at the same time it would mean to the Federal Government that no commitment had been made, except for the funds necessary for one year's work. [65]

Just as the legal problems were being interpreted, more opposition arose in the form of judicial action. A suit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court on September 13 foreshadowed some of the major opposition lodged against the memorial after the bond issue's passage. Opponents challenged the bonds' validity in Claude E. Vrooman et al. v. City of St. Louis et al., argued on September 30, 1935. The city's demurrer to petition in the suit was sustained on October 1, resulting in the opponents appealing to the Missouri Supreme Court. This case was argued on October 15, and on November 2 the supreme court affirmed the lower court's decision. The court ruled the city could deliver the entire bond issue as soon as Washington fixed the exact boundaries of the memorial and the necessary sum for its acquisition and construction. [66]

In addition to the test suit filing, one opposing group created enough disturbances to cause Luther Ely Smith and his backers very serious concern. Paul O. Peters, head of the Citizens Non-Partisan Committee, lodged protests against the election, and this action was joined by the Taxpayers Defense Association. Having lost the election, these groups turned toward challenging it. "We won the Bond Issue Election no doubt about it. But it was stolen," they cried. Paul Peters raised sufficient opposition to make city officials fearful he would receive attention in Washington. [67]

A draft of an executive order was finished by November 4, prepared by "Washington advisors" of the association. City Counselor Charles Hay judged the document to be in "compliance with the decision of the [Missouri] State Court setting forth the conditions upon the fulfillment of which the City is authorized to turn over the proceeds of the bonds to the proper Federal Authority." [68]

Mayor Dickmann headed for Washington, D.C. on November 6 with Charles Hay, Edgar Wayman, Luther Ely Smith, Louis La Beaume, and commission secretary Russell Murphy. They met with Harold Ickes, Harry Hopkins, National Park Service officials, and Justice Department officials. While Hopkins told the group he could begin transforming the site the minute it became public property, Ickes stressed that the funds must be spent within the fiscal year. After the PWA approved the executive order draft, President Roosevelt received it. He, in turn, sent it to United States Attorney General Homer Cummings for a ruling on its legality. [69]

The Attorney General's Opinion

While Cummings labored over his task, the memorial backers waited in Washington. Although they seemed so close to their goal, having promoted and worked to obtain the interest and backing of city and national figures, they faced a tantalizing delay. On November 18 the bomb fell. Cummings replied to FDR's inquiry, "I am herewith transmitting without my approval a proposed executive order approving the establishment and authorizing the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Territorial Expansion Memorial." [70] Cummings believed the President's only authority to construct the project lay in the National Recovery Act and the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. Funds for the project were available under the latter act, but unfortunately these funds could not be allocated for future use. "The President has no authority to commit the Congress to future appropriations for the completion of this project," Cummings wrote. Any executive order operating on a legal basis would have to provide for the construction of the project out of funds then available and at the disposal of the President. In Cummings' opinion, the Federal Government had no right to accept the $7,500,000 from the city of St. Louis on any other basis. To counter the claim that the Government had an agreement with the city to build the memorial, Cummings replied that acceptance of money implied only a moral commitment to complete the project, but not a firm legal agreement. He offered an alternative way to obtain the money — ask Congress for it. Then and only then could the project receive relief funds. [71]

Cummings' opinion left the association members bewildered. After the August meeting, Secretary Ickes had sought approval of the general plans and an appropriation for the first year's construction. Advisors in the PWA legal department had drafted the executive order, satisfying Ickes' desire for action. Consultation with the attorney general had never even been discussed. Ickes believed the executive order sufficient since he personally took it to the White House for Roosevelt's signature. Roosevelt certainly did not expect such a ruling. Missouri Senator Harry Truman had come to Washington to help, but he returned home after the President's favorable statements assured him of the project's approval. At two press conferences during the week, Roosevelt stated he would sign the executive order. Late on November 15, the day when the President was expected to sign the order, word came from the Justice Department about the delay. Smith stated, "The Department of Justice had been so cooperative in September that it seemed impossible that there could be any substantial objection coming from that office." Shortly thereafter, the stunned St. Louis delegation returned home empty-handed. [72]

For the next month Dickmann, Smith, and their congressional representatives sought a way to obtain the authorization. Representative John Cochran searched for non-allocated money controlled by the President, but the director of the Budget Bureau reported that no such funds remained in fiscal year 1935. "Frankly, to me, it appears that the red tape is slowly winding itself around this project," Cochran told Dickmann, and he doubted that any appropriation resolution would get through Congress. Dickmann was angry. He telegraphed Senator Bennett Champ Clark that Cummings' opinion that only a moral binding held the Federal Government to the project disappointed him in view of the money spent by St. Louis on the election. "I know I need not impress upon you [the] fact that the people of St. Louis have ideas too regarding what morally binds. They don't like this even a little bit. If this communication sounds like lessons from [the] pulpit understand I am not responsible for this sudden emphasis on moral implications." [73]

Luther Ely Smith, optimistic as ever, believed this only a temporary setback, regarded it as a challenge, and determined to go ahead. Bon Geaslin, poking around Washington in search of support, reported that the solicitor general's office would not even informally suggest any form of an executive order which might be approved. These officials went on record as saying the project would proceed only if Congress furnished the money. Cochran discovered the same attitude in the legislature. Ickes' hands were tied as well as those of all other government officials. In view of the attorney general's ruling, Russell Murphy summed up everyone's feelings: "We might as well face reality." [74]

Other than drafting a new executive order, an appeal to Congress seemed the obvious recourse. A bill could approve the area as a site for a national memorial as recommended by the commission. Rather than seeking an appropriation, the law would provide authorization for the National Park Service to accept St. Louis' $7,500,000. Roosevelt would possess authority to allocate the money that Hopkins had set aside for the project. Smith felt that the obvious advantages of such direct relief would appeal to Congress so much that even the toughest critics of spending policy and watchdogs of the treasury would favor allotting money for this project. Then, if future appropriations seemed unwise, Congress would hold the option of objection. [75]

Bernard Dickmann returned to Washington, D.C., on December 13, determined to hold the Federal Government to its agreement with St. Louis. Smith suggested that he "hold fire" with the President until Senators Clark and Truman could arrive, but Dickmann decided to use a little political clout. Unable to gain a meeting with Roosevelt, Dickmann called Homer Cummings, suggesting that he think about this issue not as attorney general but in his role as Democratic national committeeman. Dickmann reminded Cummings that FDR would be running for reelection in the coming year. If St. Louis was refused this request Dickmann would not hesitate to lead the fight in Missouri against the President. Cummings contacted Postmaster General James Farley, FDR's campaign manager in 1932. They discussed the problem, and Cummings called Dickmann back to tell him that they would arrange something. Roosevelt's secretary, Colonel McIntyre, called Cummings, two of his assistants, Harry Hopkins, and Harold Ickes into conference to decide upon a course of action. Ickes' diary recorded the meeting. Apparently the idea of the St. Louis project had progressed well until Cummings rendered his adverse opinion. [76] Ickes wrote, "One thing for Homer, however, is that he is agile. He found against it on one ground and now he discovers that he can qualify it under the Historic Sites Act, which was passed last session. I rather hooted at this, but since we are all committed up to our eyes on this project, I think we ought to go through with it under whatever guise." The group worked out a solution and Homer Cummings drafted a new executive order. Under this order, Harry Hopkins would authorize a contribution to the Department of the Interior. The city of St. Louis and the Public Works Administration would furnish the balance up to $9,000,000 to be used on the project "until July 1, next." [77]

The Historic Sites Act

Previously, on August 21, 1935, President Roosevelt signed an act to provide for the preservation of historic sites, buildings, objects, and antiquities of national significance. The Historic Sites Act gave the secretary of the interior broad powers to carry out this policy through the National Park Service. The secretary was to make a national survey of historic and archaeologic buildings, sites, and objects which possess "exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States"; to contract or make agreements with municipal departments, educational and scientific institutions, associations, and individuals to preserve historic properties; and to acquire any real or personal property for purposes of the act. [78] Homer Cummings used this legality to justify establishing a St. Louis memorial to Thomas Jefferson. A new executive order was drafted, allocating $3,300,000 in WPA funds and $3,450,000 in PWA funds (under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935) for site acquisition. Combined with the city's contribution of $2,250,000 (and based on a three to one ratio) the order provided $9,000,000 for one year's work. On December 21, 1935, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7253 permitting the secretary of the interior to acquire and develop the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. This became the country's first national historic site designated under the Historic Sites Act. [79]

In the order Roosevelt cited the basis for the area's designation as a historic site. Several historic events occurred on the site, and historic buildings were located "at and near the site." Important buildings in the area included the Spanish Colonial office where the Upper Louisiana Purchase was transferred to the United States; the Government House where Captain Amos Stoddard took formal possession of the Purchase for the United States in 1804; the old French cathedral, earliest home of western religion on the western bank of the Mississippi; and the courthouse where the Dred Scott case was tried. St. Louis was the site where Laclede and Chouteau established "the first civil government west of Mississippi; the site where Lafayette was received by the people; the site where Lewis and Clark planned their exploration trip; and the beginning point of the Santa Fe, Oregon, and other trails." In addition to the historic significance of the area, Roosevelt cited another reason for the establishment of the memorial. In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Roosevelt stated that the project would be a useful one, and would "provide relief, work relief and increased employment." [80] Thus the memorial existed for two reasons: to memorialize westward expansion, and to provide work relief within St. Louis.

Mayor Dickmann returned home triumphant. He believed this executive order to be better than the original because the site was taken for its historical value and placed directly under the control of the Department of the Interior. Russell Murphy, considering the victory as St. Louis' "Christmas present," jokingly asked Senator Alben Barkley how long Santa Claus had been living in Barkley's home state of Kentucky. "This makes a mighty fine ending of the old year," exclaimed Luther Ely Smith. [81]

However, three days after Roosevelt signed the executive order, opposition again erupted in St. Louis. A taxpayer's suit was filed attempting to stop the city of St. Louis from issuing and selling the bonds. Little did Luther Ely Smith realize that the memorial to Thomas Jefferson faced thirty years of delay before it would become reality.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004